Opinion

Foster the people

Foster the people

What does the good old ‘Tick and Flick’ Pre Trip Safety Check (PTSC) and those ugly little yellow pointers you see on the wheel nuts of an alarmingly growing number of heavy vehicles have in common?

They are both the brainchild and designed to protect the butts of ‘the office dwelling, “I’ve never done your job, but my clipboard says you’re doing it wrong” keyboard pilots’. The other thing they have in common is that neither will ever contribute to the safety of a single driver.

You see the PTSC is just the simplest way to pass the buck from the dispatching party to the driver.

We all know the story – freight forwarders don’t care if you have been waiting to unload or reload all day. They know you have a job to do and they know because they have, in most cases, no monetary commitment to how long a driver and many hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment sit around waiting to be loaded/unloaded.

They assume the driver has a family to feed and will do the trips they had planned no matter what. They realise the owner of the equipment has payments to make, wages to pay, fixed costs. They have no sympathy for third parties who show no respect for the people who carry their freight.

A driver has no option but to sign a PTSC – no sign, no load.

The correct torquing of a wheel nut can only be achieved by turning said nut until a torque measuring device indicates the desired torque has been reached.

Not getting a three-quarter inch rattle gun on the end of said wheel nut and holding the trigger depressed until the holder of the gun starts to lose consciousness and the feeling in their hands does not achieve the correct torque.

But let’s assume the tyre fitter actually did the procedure correctly and then puts the little yellow pointers on properly, pointing to each other. What happens if, like in the case of off-road heavy vehicles, the mounting faces of the wheels and or hub are often contaminated with debris?

I’ll tell you what happens, the nuts stay pointing to each other while actually possibly becoming loose due to the debris being ground to a powder and therefore allowing a gap to form between rims and hub.

So, what does all this mean? And what can we do about it?

Well, we need to start developing ‘operators’ like we used to do, and not simply license people who can pass a driving course. By this I mean, educate the people who will be steering these trucks on how to conduct a proper pre, mid and post trip inspection.

During these inspections operators should be looking for signs of loose fittings and movement that do not require a torque wrench, but an educated observation.

Egg suckers

The skills of so many good operators who are leaving the industry now through retirement, death or just plain being fed up with the current state of play, were often learned by mentoring from a young age.

Either going to work with family or friends and observing, asking questions, witnessing things that went wrong, things that went well and building up a knowledge base that was the foundation of a great operator, the likes you see only rarely nowadays.

The very companies that stand on their soapbox and proclaim with absolute conviction that the way they suck eggs is the only way to do it, and ‘if you would just take this online course, unpaid and in your own time obviously, you will be a qualified egg sucker too’.

These are the companies that have single-handedly destroyed the simplest, yet best training system the transport industry has ever known. It will come as no surprise that they too have been the architects of the ‘Yellow Pointer’ era.

The yellow pointers, PTSC forms and fluoro shirts go hand in hand and were only a knee jerk reaction by the large companies that incubated the problems that they then sought this pathetic ‘solution’ for.

Passion discouraged

In my town there is a young fellow I have had work with me on fleet maintenance at one of our local transport companies as part of his work experience program. He is absolutely obsessed with trucks.

His spare time is spent at the local truck stop photographing trucks, speaking to drivers and generally feeding his passion for trucks. He is 16. He wants to come with me in a truck that I drive casually, yet corporate policy will not allow this.

The irony of this is that there is a mild driver shortage at this company. So, the pencil pilots have worked out another way.

Rather than foster this passion, we should wait until he is 19, worked out the opposite sex are interesting, school has been over for one to three years and an income stream has begun to ‘allow’ him the ‘privilege’ of now getting a truck licence and, with absolutely no experience, start driving a heavy vehicle on public roads.

So, what does all this mean? Well simply, it means that we as an industry have let organisations run by people that are not capable of, or qualified to do our job, dictate the demise of our workforce and training system.

There are still companies around that actually nurture professional operators, maintain vehicles properly, put in place real policies that come from experience from being on the ground. These companies do not add ineffective gimmicks to vehicles to pass the buck, rather they work with staff to cultivate staff and harvest good operators.

My suggestion is, you go find one of these companies that will nurture your skills to determine such things like if your wheels are falling off, rather than have you signed something that suggests they do not care if they do fall off because the driver signed a PTSC accepting all responsibility.

May your trucking be safe and profitable.

Foster the people

GORDO MACKINLAY is a former president and current board member of the National Road Freighters Association. To contact the NRFA see the website at www.nrfa.com.au, email info@nrfa.com.au or phone 0493 564 467.

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