Ir­ra­tional en­force­ment

As­so­ci­a­tions are look­ing to boost the ranks of truck drivers, as long as it’s not their own off­spring

Owner Driver - - Wilkie’s Watch - Ken Wilkie

IHAD A CON­TRACT THE OTHER day that took me into a coal mine run by one of Aus­tralia’s larger busi­nesses. As you can guess, there were all the work­place health and safety ex­pec­ta­tions. High vis­i­bil­ity of course with long daks and long sleeves, hard hat, safety glasses, steel caps, and an ex­pec­ta­tion that the first pa­rade ser­vice had been done on the gear be­fore start-up that morn­ing. There were no over cen­tre dogs of course, and def­i­nitely no get­ting on the trailer deck. Just one me­tre above terra firma and wheel chocks to be used once parked, and a three-me­tre safety ra­dius once the load had been de­tached for crane lift. Oh yes, no us­ing of mo­bile phone, both for safety and security.

I can’t think of any other ex­pec­ta­tions, but def­i­nitely no need to use one’s own mind.

I was to be the sec­ond lift off so that all the pieces could be mar­ried up just nicely. The first lift was achieved with­out drama. My turn came to back into po­si­tion and I con­ducted my­self on eggshells as I didn’t want to be the one to bring the group into dis­re­pute. So the thing has been hoisted off and I’m di­rected to move out and set up the gear for the home run. I for­got and had to be escorted in and out. That’s not unusual on a mine site and once I’d packed the gear away, I had to wait the re­turn of the es­cort ve­hi­cle.

Sud­denly I’m ap­proached by some­one with au­thor­ity. One could just tell – the man­ner of the ap­proach, the con­di­tion of the high-vis­i­bil­ity cloth­ing. I have to say, I felt some trep­i­da­tion. I’ve al­ready pointed out that I was walk­ing on eggshells for fear of stuff­ing up.

“What have I done?” I asked when the gen­tle­man was within talk­ing dis­tance. “Did you un­load in the right or­der?” was the ques­tion. And I have to say, the ques­tion was sub­mit­ted in a rea­son­able man­ner. “Ab­so­lutely,” and my re­sponse was sup­ported by the next driver wait­ing to off­load.

A staffer had opened a door on “my” mod­ule and ex­posed a solid wall on the pre­vi­ous de­liv­ery. The send­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion must have stuffed up. I tried check­ing se­rial num­bers to de­ter­mine the con­sec­u­tive build and so on. In spite of lit­tle area for wait­ing trucks, af­ter some time it was con­sid­ered vi­tal that all the boys would have to come in so that the proper se­quence could be de­ter­mined. If need be, the crane would have to lift my load out so the cor­rect piece could be placed.

Once escorted out, I’m off at the speed of a rac­ing camel. I rang one of the boys the next morn­ing to check on the out­come. There’s noth­ing like think­ing out­side the square. Some­one sug­gested wind­ing in some wire on the crane, swing­ing my load around 180 de­grees and Bob’s your un­cle.

ON-ROAD KNOWL­EDGE MISS­ING

A lit­tle bit in the same vein. I’ve been keep­ing abreast of some of the talk com­ing out of the “lead­ing” as­so­ci­a­tions. And I’ll bet 10 bob to a penny that all the good peo­ple mak­ing the ut­ter­ances are well ed­u­cated.

A thing that at­tracted my at­ten­tion a lit­tle while ago was a move by a lead­ing in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion to draw up what I be­lieve is an in­dus­try ver­sion of what our na­tional road trans­port law should look like. One thing that is for cer­tain is the cur­rent rub­bish is just that. But I’m dis­ap­pointed – greatly dis­ap­pointed – that the good in­dus­try bu­reau­cracy only saw fit to pro­vide de­tails of their draft ef­fort to the Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion and to the Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor.

Clint East­wood, in a speech to vot­ers in the lat­est United States fed­eral elec­tion, made a strong point of high­light­ing that politi­cians are the em­ploy­ees of so­ci­ety. Why is it that this in­dus­try’s bu­reau­cra­cies, both pri­vate and pub­lic, seem de­ter­mined to keep in­dus­try is­sues away from our politi­cians? And be­ing in a po­si­tion where I will be sub­ject to what­ever pro­pos­als have been put for­ward, if ac­cepted, why haven’t th­ese pro­pos­als been made avail­able to the in­dus­try press for us poor rank and file to have com­ment. And what on-road knowl­edge do the cre­ators of the pro­pos­als pos­sess I won­der?

NatRoad and the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion are con­cerned that the in­dus­try is un­able to at­tract young peo­ple to the role of truck driver. Over the years I’ve at­tended quite a few in­dus­try talk fes­ti­vals. While out on the road I have to ad­mit to not be­ing very out­go­ing, but I have been out there now for some 44 years. In all that time I have en­coun­tered just one son of a prom­i­nent in­dus­try per­son do­ing the driv­ing thing. And th­ese days that “driver” is man­ag­ing his own busi­ness.

To be blunt, it seems th­ese peo­ple are look­ing to some­one else’s sons and daugh­ters to be fod­der for the mon­ey­mak­ing as­pi­ra­tions of en­force­ment.

IN­CREASED EN­FORCE­MENT

I’m ab­so­lutely gob­s­macked at NatRoad’s hypocrisy. Again, I re­peat the sub­mis­sion made by NatRoad to sup­port the set­ting up of the hoped-for Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tion (NHVR).

I quote: “Bor­der cross­ings are a ‘high stress’ node in the trans­port net­work and ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try sources, drivers who cross bor­ders ex­pe­ri­ence con­sid­er­able ‘com­pli­ance stress’, with at­ten­dant health risks. Al­though this stress is non-quan­tifi­able and has no di­rect eco­nomic im­pact, it in­flu­ences drivers’ qual­ity of life and on-road fo­cus. It could also con­ceiv­ably be a risk fac­tor in fa­tigue man­age­ment.” (Se­cur­ing a Na­tional Ap­proach to Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tion re­port to the Na­tional Road Trans­port Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion).

Since the so-called na­tional reg­u­la­tor has come into be­ing, en­force­ment has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased, but for no ra­tio­nal rea­son. The en­force­ment load car­ried by heavy ve­hi­cle drivers is ir­ra­tional and ex­tremely costly to drivers’ health through com­pli­ance stress. It does have be­yond that a mas­sive eco­nomic im­pact.

Not only have the reg­u­la­tions not passed any test to en­sure the va­lid­ity of the reg­u­la­tions, but in ad­di­tion the de­ceit­ful use of ter­mi­nol­ogy used to de­scribe breach re­port­ing com­bines to make a dif­fi­cult oc­cu­pa­tion even less at­trac­tive to new en­trants.

Dif­fi­cult oc­cu­pa­tion? Long pe­ri­ods sep­a­rated from fam­ily. Lu­di­crously poor op­por­tu­nity to com­ply with ir­ra­tional fa­tigue leg­is­la­tion, and such leg­is­la­tion en­forced be­yond rea­son­able lim­its of com­mon sense.

What at­tracted the two or three NSW high­way pa­trols and the Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices peo­ple to Kund­abung on the morn­ing of Septem­ber 11? Was it a drug deal gone wrong, an ag­gra­vated as­sault, or some­one se­verely in­jured in an ac­ci­dent? None of that, just truck drivers in the ser­vice of their so­ci­ety.

And what is the re­sponse of in­dus­try lead­er­ship? Put more em­pha­sis on de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy to make trucks and drivers safer. In­stead of the op­por­tu­nity to rest we man­date a so­phis­ti­cated cat­tle prod to keep drivers awake. And all this crap when it is gen­er­ally recog­nised that the other driver is at fault in the vast ma­jor­ity of ac­ci­dents.

The NHVR – aren’t they just the gems of logic. Just now they are em­bark­ing on a lec­ture tour of lo­cal govern­ment to ad­vise lo­cal govern­ment road man­agers (not road own­ers) of obli­ga­tions in re­gard to over­size over mass per­mits. How many years has the NHVR been a fact? No, it’s not our fault, you have been do­ing it all wrong is their catch cry.

And the re­lax­ation of load di­men­sions for drought fod­der! Since th­ese al­lowances

“I have en­coun­tered just one son of a prom­i­nent in­dus­try per­son do­ing the driv­ing thing.”

can­not im­pinge on safety – that’s a given – can Steve now carry trac­tors whose ex­haust poke 4.6 into the air? Does the 2.85 width al­lowance mean he will no longer have to ap­ply for a per­mit to ac­com­mo­date the bulge on the trac­tor tyres he is car­ry­ing?

And what is it about trans­port for or by pri­mary pro­duc­ers that makes them re­spon­si­ble for 160km with no log­book and the likes of me not even be­ing trusted for one kilo­me­tre (BFM). I can’t fathom which makes me the most frus­trated – the ones who pro­pose th­ese dou­ble stan­dards or those gib­ber­ing id­iots who con­done it.

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