Mate, could you do me a favour?

By: Scotty Douglas


In his latest rant, Scotty Douglas says it's the person behind the wheel that may benefit most from new industry regulations. No more quick logbook maths, just black and white numbers

Mate, could you do me a favour?
By throwing out the hard copy diary, could you get more rest?

 

The phone is ringing. Your eyelids feel glued shut and your mouth feels like the bottom of a budgie cage as you stir. It’s been a big week.

You drag yourself out of sleep and upright in the bunk, in the background the cab cooler gurgles or maybe there’s the distant hammering of an icepack.

The glowing face of the truck phone glares angrily as it rings, or maybe it’s your personal phone. You know, the one you put on silent but aren’t game to turn off in case there’s an important call from home? You check the screen; it’s the boss.

Beyond the cab curtains you know that glare of the afternoon sun awaits.

The scene beyond could be the crammed concrete of a road house parking area or a industrial back street somewhere. It could even be the chain link fence around a freight depot as forklifts and yard trucks clank and bang in the distance. Maybe it’s a dusty highway rest area where passing traffic rocks the prime mover gently on its airbags.

The last thing you saw before pulling the curtains a few hours ago may have been a toothless hooker looming out of the darkness, wanting to know if you want some company.  Or it may have been the back of a fridge van trying to squeeze in next to your truck in the darkness with the reverse beeper blaring and the fridge motor on defrost.

If you’re lucky it may have been a feed with a mate before dragging your sorry arse into bed. 

The phone keeps ringing.  You finally push the button and answer it.

"Sorry mate, did I wake you?"

You grunt non-committally, "Listen, could you do me a favour?"

Variations of the scene above play out every day all around the country.

That favour may be an urgent couple of pallets that need to be grabbed before a certain time. It may be a load that needs to be picked up earlier, an urgent load that has just come up.

Either way that question always has you mentally calculating break time, driving hours and the carbonized pages of your log book. The question though, is what do you do? What if you don’t have the hours?

The boss may be a great bloke to work for and have good equipment, you may get paid well for what you do and you have an understanding of give and take that works for you.

Or you may work for a faceless organisation that will think nothing of parking you up for an extra 12 hours if you don’t help them out; the difference between a weekend at home or half of one.

Or maybe you’re the boss and know that if they aren’t turnin’ you ain’t earnin’. The truck won’t pay for itself sitting still.

So what do you do? What if the time figures just don’t add up? I’m going to guess that plenty of us will just pull on the shorts, fasten back the curtains and get on with it.

And driving hours aside why wouldn’t you? It may mean an early exit out of town and time for a couple of hours in the sack down the road when you really need it.

Or it may smooth over that trip you need off to go to a wedding or catch up with the kids.

While the rest of the industry with a few rare exceptions says there’s nothing to see here and puts warm fuzzy mission statements on its websites the reality is that the vast majority of the industry isn’t really compliant. I’m sure there are plenty who’ll hit the roof and call me all sorts of names and say I’m full of shit.

Big companies will point out the GPS tracking and the whole bunch of cameras that now track exactly what the driver does.

Okay, fine, you get to make sure the driver wasn’t texting before they ran off the road.

However, nobody ever quantifies just how long the driver was awake before they climbed into the truck. The logbook clock doesn’t start ticking when we drive through the depot gates.

For most, it starts at the last minute before rolling out the gates.

Load’s not ready? "Go have a coffee, we’ll call you."

Has anyone actually studied just how long the average linehaul driver is awake and present at work but not actually driving? I reckon the results would be scary.

I dunno about you but if I’m waiting for a load in a depot somewhere and want to hit the road the last thing I feel like doing is sleeping just in case I may get tired later. Especially if I’ve been given a slot to load.

Nope, I’m more likely to be pacing holes in the concrete cursing and chain smoking. Neither habits are particularly healthy!

So I’m going to be really unpopular by saying that I reckon electronic work diaries could be the best thing to happen in Australian trucking for decades. It’s only then that people will realise just how much drivers do and how long they work.

I’m not confident that it will ever happen though. There’s no arguing with the digital clock in a truck, imagine how many more trucks will be needed on the road. Heaven forbid that logistics customers actually have to be organised!

The boss can’t argue with a digital tachograph. And you can be sure the authorities will be all over it.

What’s worst that can happen? You may actually have a valid excuse for sleeping soundly and not turning a wheel until you are legally able to.

Industry regulation isn’t popular but it’s here and not going anywhere, so suck it up.

At least proper regulation would be better than the half-arsed approach we have now. Under the current regime the person who cops the hit at every turn is the person behind the wheel.

And you never know, maybe sometime in the future when you take that call for a favour you’ll be awake, fed, showered and raring to go.  

 

 

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