Asleep at the wheel

By: The Interstater

Those pulling the strings complain about the driver shortage but it’s all due to their lack of foresight.


Hope you all got a chance to read the latest ramblings of the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) in relation to its newest revelation that there may be a "looming crisis" whereby transport companies are struggling to find competent drivers to strap into their trucks. The VTA is even calling for the State Government to introduce "major" reforms to keep unsafe drivers away from suburban streets. Really, it’s that bad? Who would have guessed?

This has even prompted the managing director of Secon Freight Logistics to admit his company is struggling to find quality employees: "We’re not getting quality drivers".

I hope these people are not seeking any sympathy. Clearly they have had their heads firmly shoved in such a place that they haven’t been listening to the industry over the past 20 years or more.

It’s not as if it is only a recent paradigm. This has been coming like the inevitable eruption of Kilauea. Do they not read? Do they not listen? We have been trying to get them to listen since forever. It started when they accepted the BS of not being able to allow passengers in trucks. It started when we could no longer take our kids in the trucks with us, just like we were able to do when we were kids. How do they think we got to be so interested in driving trucks for a living? We had no choice; it was ingrained into our DNA right from a very early age, but our kids had that stolen from them. Now these numbskulls are seeing the results of their ignorance.

It’s one thing to finally admit that employers have been asleep at the wheel, but they are still too arrogant to see how they are currently creating the next wave of profit-making blockades. The increase of overall length rules has made a mockery of the trucking industry’s ability to entice drivers but they still can’t see it. So whinge all you like.

I’ll give you a little hint – paying a driver a lousy $1 or thereabouts per hour extra that you pay for driving a freaking roadtrain around the metropolitan roads and streets isn’t exactly going to see blokes signing up for the extra $50 or $60 bucks per week when there are others paying $5 or more to drive a rigid.

The extra stress, the extra responsibility, the extra concentration, the extra care and control required to avoid killing those around you isn’t worth the glory of being able to tell your mates that "ya drive a train". Clearly those scratching their noggin trying to find ways of drawing drivers into their need to generate a profit are loath to be told that it is simply a money choice situation.

They must make the choice of continuing to pay the barebones minimum or upping the rates they are prepared to pay for quality drivers. It’s a case of we pay what we can afford. Well, that’s the attitude they need to rid themselves of – pronto.

Dodgy licensing

The other admission Peter Anderson of the VTA made was that they have major concerns about the way in which drivers’ licenses are being handed out to those not worthy. Well hello sunshine. Does he really think we have forgotten how many times his association cried out for simpler, easier, quicker licensing courses due to the need for more truck drivers?

Why didn’t they stand up and demand major changes to the learner driver system when that dodgy Linfox driver-trainer was found out? Why haven’t they sent people in to investigate the rorts entrenched into some of these training organisations? The White Card, the MISC Card and the Blue Card fiasco is no different. Wherever there is money abound with Government subsidies, there are those that will make hay while they are left alone to prosper.

We all know the names and the faces of those that cover up the rorts with speeches like "our drivers are the most highly trained". None of the associations are ready to admit how much they have failed their members. And the members are yet to put a price on what the associations have cost them in lost earning potential if they had the foresight to run their businesses without being majorly impeded by the misguided rhetoric of such an inbred bunch of hangers on.

The associations are continually banging on about the growing freight task, greater road congestion amid the souring population growth, as well as our need to change and develop ways of doing the increased workload. Why don’t they start highlighting the obvious need for every truck owner to increase their rates in measure of the task at hand with the ever increasing need for what it is we do for this country?

Every state has the same increasing need for truck movements, hence the easy bid for rate increases across the whole country. That’s why people are foolish enough to continue being a part of these pathetic associations because they hang on to the foolhardy belief that they will eventually do what they pretend to do – represent the bulk of their members and not those on the first page of their charter, the ones commonly referred to as their "major sponsors". That simply stands out as a glaring beacon of contempt for all those that are not in that elite group.

The question is: When are all the trucking company members going to wake up and see how they are constantly being played against the major sponsors?

Pay and safety

"There is no evidence of a link between remuneration and safety." How can anyone that runs trucks all over this country bear witness to such lies? Economics 101 dictates that if you are not earning more than you spend you will go out backwards. It’s the same when you have five trucks working 250 hours per week, and the same as the bloke next door. But if you are being paid 20 percent less than he is for the same hours/workload, simple math will conclude his trucks will be 20 percent safer than yours if you are struggling to keep your name on the payslips.

How can an association boss get away with denying what we have all known and lived throughout all our trucking lives? He says there is no evidence of a link, well how does he figure so many trucking companies have gone bust over the past 40 years? Not just those mismanaged, but those we all grew up seeing long before we joined the ranks of the underpaid.

Fletchers, Mills and Hunt come to mind, companies that saw the light and got out while the going was good. When BS-ing about remuneration, it cannot be denied that being paid by the kilometre is dangerous overall because it encourages driving beyond physical and mental endurance. It directly relates to income earning potential, and the need to satisfy the owner of the truck to shore up further employment security.

Calling it a day

There has been a blue moon in the sky over the Hume Highway recently when one such gentleman of the highway drove past ‘Pigs Memorial’ for the last time in a truck.

Kerry ‘Kenworth’ O’Connell has decided to call it a day/night and retire. Never have I known someone so well known since Chilla to have graced the highways with so much admiration and respect of his peers (and such command of a microphone).

He will leave a huge hole in the industry but hopefully he will now finally get his shit together and write that book that so many would love to read.

Maybe Kerry, Bob Sealey and Brian Turpie should collaborate. Either way, all the very best to you and the blonde KK. It’s been a pleasure and an honour.

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