Ken Wilkie, Opinion

Flawed logic up north

OPINION: Enforcement inconsistencies continue to be a bugbear for truck drivers in the banana state.

I’ve just completed a run to Cairns. A pleasant change in the main – I never tire of the wall-to-wall greenery. Doing oversize to or from that part of the world on the coastal route requires using the Burdekin River Bridge between Home Hill and Ayr. Sounds simple; except that one is required to contact Ray so that opposing traffic can be stopped to allow passage of the oversize load.

Now there is an additional requirement that carriers doing oversize have to contact the (not national) National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to have traffic control signals operated. I’m told there is a questionnaire to be responded to that asks for a pilot’s registered number. Okay. More bureaucratic load on road transport to offset a very flawed situation.

In relation to the Burdekin River Crossing in a world too often saddled with maniacal terrorist acts, imagine the economic impact on North Queensland’s and even on Australia’s economy should some lunatics decide to action their stupidity on this crossing.

I returned down the ‘alternative’ road via Belyando Crossing. Hardly a route to support any overflow traffic from the coast road, not to mention that the Burdekin River Bridge also carries the North Queensland rail traffic. Our governments are spending billions of dollars to ease traffic congestion in the bottom corner of the state and are not giving a thought to the vulnerability
of North Queenslanders.

Sadly, this unbalanced spending of borrowed resources reflects our distorted system of voting. It is all about numbers rather than real need.

Go for it Gary Mahon of the Queensland Trucking Association. Keep up the pressure for a viable alternative route.

One thing that did impress me on the run up was the consistency of the speed of drivers. The great majority were sitting on the speed limit – so need for overtaking or being pressured to tailgate in an attempt to get the job done. It was a different story homeward bound as I was governed by Queensland’s irrational over-dimensional speed limits. It’s not that I have any desire to race along like Peter Brock, although I like to be as considerate of others as he reportedly was in his professional sphere.

At 3.8 metres wide I had to rely on my pilot Graham to give guidance on following vehicles. Had we taken the coast route, the heavier traffic flow would have resulted in considerably more negative interaction with other vehicles.

BFM blunder

My mate Chris has been on the phone again. You’ll remember his son Dan got pinged almost $700 a few months ago for accidently failing to mark his BFM box on the revenue raiser. Just recently Dan made another of those mistakes that even the best operators can and do make. Bloody hell – he miscalculated his 14 hours by 15 minutes. The NHVR inspector went through Dan’s record and found him to be a very responsible operator (as they are – father and son) and wrote him a formal warning, in case taskforce find the error so Dan is protected from harsh penalty.

But there is something interesting in this. Had the officer chose to write Dan up, the cost was in the vicinity of $400. So where is the logic? He makes an error in his fatigue management of a whole 15 minutes and its round figures of 400. He makes an error in his record keeping and its $700! What’s logic got to do with it? From a safety risk management perspective, it’s arse about face.

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So, what’s the point of chain of responsibility legislation? Should the question be: Is it important to have a level playing field? I thought an aspect of a democracy was the government ensuring a level playing field for business operators.

An out-of-line truck driver has had a slip shod attitude to fatigue and mass regulations. The NHVR people discover this and take the driver and his employer to task and the penalty for both is in the thousands. The taskforce intercepts an out-of-line employed driver to the tune of something like 50 breaches, at least some of which were failing to hand in the yellow copies to the employer. Where’s the chain of responsibility action on this one?

Does this go back to what Darryl said some weeks ago in OwnerDriver about not having a level playing field? Does the taskforce simply go for low hanging fruit, ignoring their obligation to the principles of democracy?

Meanwhile industry association members simply relish being in close contact with bureaucracy. Warm and fuzzy feelings! Integrity?  

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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