Ken Wilkie, Opinion

Attitude adjustment – Wilkie’s Watch

Attitude adjustment

I have held a driving licence for 60 years. In that time, I’ve undertaken training in the Army service corps, and subjected myself to a couple of training sessions at the old Mount Cotton Heavy Vehicle Training establishment.

So what? I simply have to say I’m disgusted with this society’s road safety performance.

To my mind, there are two elementary aspects that add up to the dismal outcome. One is competency and the other is attitude. Competency is largely limited to driving but attitude is both a driver issue and a leadership issue.

Despite the draconian rules and massive penalties, our road safety performance is deplorable and horrendous. And into what category do we place the Australian appetite for illicit drugs?

We were only in Canada for four weeks and I never drove myself, but we were driven in two major cities during their rush hour. There was not the push and shove attitude demonstrated over there that is so obvious in heavy traffic that I subject myself to. Too many Australian drivers display the attitude that it’s all about winning rather than how you play the game.

I accept that the following comment is outside my role as a subject matter that a road transport magazine contributor should be addressing. However, I’m thinking this is an indicator as to where our national integrity has fallen to.

On the leadup to the recent referendum, 19 of Australia’s major companies contributed millions of dollars each to support the ‘Yes’ vote. My issues are twofold. Company investors were not consulted and had these organisations felt so strongly about conditions for indigenous folk, why haven’t they been giving such financial support to actual indigenous societies?

No, I see their spending purely as an attempt to buy political support. I have a similar view of the current concern that has industry associations demanding better training just for truck drivers. Now I absolutely expect heavy vehicle drivers to be competent and considerate. And I am hearing very disturbing stories on truck drivers doing stupid and dangerous things.

Like the bloke travelling north towards Sarina. He called a friend who he’d caught up to just south of Carmila. Those of us who are familiar with the Marlborough leg of the Bruce know that once one has got to Clairview, overtaking opportunities are not so easy.

Anyway, to his credit, this goose gave Ryan a call on whether he could come around. Ryan told him that he was in curve; couldn’t see enough road and that they were not too far short of an overtaking lane.

That didn’t bother the goose who simply pulled out against double lines and proceeded to overtake. That’s not okay, and it supports legitimate concern regarding the quality of some heavy vehicle operators.

But will education overcome such stupidity? I have my doubts. It’s just so much a basic safe driving issue to not overtake against double lines on a blind corner – and especially when one lacks the acceleration ability when floored it to achieve clearance.

I go back to that document that National Road Freighters Association’s Chris Roe forwarded to me – Road Transport Industry Position Statement Closing Loopholes Road Transport Reforms, page three.

It reads, “In 2022 this led to 185 truck related fatalities.” Were these truck related fatalities the fault of the truck driver? Currently this society is not serious about road safety outcomes. We’re too infatuated by technology.

Technology is seen by too many as the road to safe driving rather than it being an aid to better outcomes. I saw a word used recently that summed up the ‘modern’ thinkers: ‘proclivity’. It was used in a critical comment regarding the Victorian Government’s determination to adopt digital licenses.

A Victorian Transport Association official was approving the adoption of digital licenses, giving a plus for them as the ease of retrieval of such licence when requested by authority. A pretty weak attribute to my mind and I share the view of the person being critical.

This is just another example of modern thinking. If it’s technology, it’s good. The same with electronic logbooks. Sure, they might give advice on the legal parameters, but the driver still must manage his or her own fatigue.

Untrained motorists

Getting back to training truck drivers. As I’ve said, truckies must be competent. But how can industry protect truckies from horrible accidents if only one part of the road citizenship is trained?

I talked about attitude. The national attitude is up the spout. When our leadership demonstrates good attitude, we can expect some improvement in road safety outcomes.

For example, zero tolerance on speed when there is no real requirement to have speed measuring devices accurate. The failure of road safety officials to recognise the safety implications of friction in traffic flow.

Just as an aside, I’ve just had a further two stents inserted. No outside indication of issues – just revealed through the yearly requirement to undergo a stress test. In the interests of road safety, not to mention preserving life, when will our leadership require drivers beyond a certain age to have some sort of health check to determine safe driving parameters?

Let’s not forget that we are an aging – or should I say an old workforce.

So, finally the not-so National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has the role of transport administrator in Queensland. I can’t help but wonder what impact that will have on Queensland truckies – beyond maybe a change in uniform worn by those intercepting truck drivers.

KEN WILKIE has been an owner-driver since 1974, after first getting behind the wheel at 11. He’s on his eighth truck, and is a long-time Owner//Driver contributor. He covers Rockhampton to Adelaide and any point in between. His current ambition is to see the world, and to see more respect for the nation’s truckies. Contact Ken at

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