OPINION: Truck drivers deflated

By: The Interstater


Bigger trucks, more freight and less reimbursement

OPINION: Truck drivers deflated
Trev the truckie

 

Nothing worse than pulling up to the speaker, asking for a 30 cent cone, just to be told they cost 60 cents. Who knew? Has the cost of handing over a rather small whipped ice-cream gone through the roof? How many 30 cent cones, oops sorry, 60 cent cones, can you fit in the back of a pair of B-double tautliners? (Oh, and never mind how we are supposed to hold them down securely.)

Have things gone up in price that much across the board? With the whole $1 milk debacle, surely the white bit has got cheaper? The elephant in the room is, everything has gone up. I’d hate having to mention electricity, gas, private health and anything else you care to think of, but we continually see portion size reductions as well so, as they say, we are copping it both ways.

To add insult to injury we of the trucking fraternity have been and are continuing to be ripped off further due to not standing together, not even discussing the status quo, to vet any interest in uniting for our own right to put our prices up. The spoken word, the written word, are such that they are very cleverly used in such a manner so that your average truck driver doesn’t notice the smoke-and-mirrors way in which they are used to devoid of any of being paid what we are worth.

We are told what we are to be paid with no mention of what the Award would return us if paid lawfully as per the Award. The utter contempt for the Award and the foolhardy way in which truck drivers approach a potential employer is why that usually ends up going the way of ‘The Golden Rule’. It is so widespread you’d be hard pressed to find any support for a pay rate correction. That becomes quite prevalent when you consider the variance of the rates that the industry offers at both ends of the scale.

Going back to when B-doubles started to raise their industry destroying heads, the opportunity was not only lost, it was mutilated to the point that instead of placing a fair and reasonable gap between the single trailer semi and the behemoth B-double, that the pittance of 2 cents extra per kilometre quickly became the norm.

So the question could be, why was the gap between standard unleaded petrol and 98 RON petrol four cents in 1999 when nowadays it’s up there somewhere between 20 cents more, and even as much as 25 cents dearer at times? Perhaps petrol has a better union representing it.

The point being, when costs increase, wages are supposed to increase similarly. To add a much bigger slap across the face, now we see these unnecessary, industry decimating B-triples getting larger in numbers, carrying even more freight than when those first B-doubles started permeating the highways 25 or so years ago. Still, we only see a rate increase for the poor bastard behind the wheel to the tune of, if you’re lucky, an extra 2 cents per kilometre.

Between the Westgate Bridge and, say, Wetherill Park, NSW, it’s 865 kilometres. So at one cent per kilometre, that’d be $8.65. Add the second cent and we find ourselves holidaying with a grand total of $17.30, being the semi to B-double rate for a driver per leg … perhaps.

Now throw in your much anticipated B-triple and another 2 cents per kilometre and we’re talking another $17.30 as well. Now, $17.30 plus $17.30 = 2 x $10, add a couple of 7s, carry the 3, and we get to tuck another $34.60 into our retirement plans. All we have to do is purvey another 24 pallets from good ole Melbourne Town to Sydney Ville.

Hang on a minute and just to set the record straight, that’s not another 34.6 cents per kilometre on top of the 44 we were being paid for towing a single semi-trailer, which incidentally only holds 22 pallets remember. Oh no, that’s the grand total, the full sum amount that we are worth in the implementation of the cartage of two pallets of freight more than the 100 percent increase of our initial legal carrying capacity in a single semi. And it’s back before we were lucky enough to be blessed with the honour of being seen driving a "big truck" (said in the voice of all those idiots on Ch40 around every capital city).

 

Tale of two drivers

So now we have Driver A ready to leave Melbourne at 7pm on the knocker. His one and only trailer is within eye view and he’s making a beeline for it, ready to hear that sweet click of the turntable singing out, "OK mate, just need some air and some lights and I’ma ready".

Then we have ole mate, Driver B. He remembers the days when he didn’t have to wave to anyone still driving a single; only fellow B-double pilots got his wave. He can see his B trailer, sitting on the dock and it looks like they are gesturing to him that she’s ready. So he hooks her up and pulls her out and around the corner to the bulk shed where he first gets a glimpse of his A-trailer. Doesn’t look good at this stage, seems there is too much freight and not enough space. But never fear, a slight relocation of what was and what was not already loaded and 35 minutes later all he has to do is unhook that B-trailer, hook onto the A-trailer, then skilfully massage them together like a couple of teenagers in the back seat at the drive-in and, as they say, "she’s off".

But Driver A has long gone … won’t be travelling with him tonight. Oh well, that’s Driver A’s bad luck I guess. Seems a bit heavy heading out of town, not going to be racing up any of these hills too quick tonight, but he knows he looks good driving this.

So what happens when they are both doing a Melbourne to BrisVegas? Well, that’s more joy you can bank on. Now we have 1680km, or more like another $16.80 x 2, thanks very much. So that’s an extra $33.60, one way.

But it’s not all about the volume of freight though is it? For his life changing $33.60, he has been given the extra gift of another 12 tyres that may decide to rupture, blow, or just go flat while in transit, quite common in the summer heat of course.

Much slower up and down hills and it even has the grace bestowed on long vehicles that very few towns along the way allow these combinations to park in or even near most of their humble villages. While many towns can forgive a semi for finding a good use of a shady tree, don’t you dare try that crap when you’re the ‘Captain of a double B’.

But forget B-doubles; it’s all aboard the ‘B-triple Express’. Let’s ‘launch it’. What do you mean you can only ‘launch it’ to 90km/h? I’ve got 101 on the pedal! Well, ya see, she’s got full power, she cannot take it".

Road train, B-triple, 90km/h max, anywhere you want to go so long as you don’t go off route ya know. Oh, and you thought the fines were big for being off route in a B-double? Well, you’re gonna love the way they have framed the cost to you for not knowing the area you find yourself in like the local taxi operator does. But, hey, you still look grouse driving that ‘Big Jigger’.

If it’s any consolation, that extra two cents per kilometre has four cents (B-triple remember) will come in handy when you offer it up to the judge as a regular payment to take care of all those fines. Then there’s the damage the local council wants money for, but that’s a whole other story.

So you see, not being paid at least another 10 cents extra per kilometre per trailer means not only are you being ripped off blind, but you are setting yourself up to lose much of what you would have earned if we all had of stood staunch. Instead we let our egos get in the way where we could have continued driving semi-trailers until we were able to get the pay increase we were completely entitled to in the first place.

For those that think it’s still too late, I bet you the price of just two of those extra pallets that it won’t be long that the bloody 60 cent cone will be a 70 cent bastard.

 

Ditch the day cabs

Bravo to David Noel for putting forward the much needed and well overdue notion that interstate/long distance truck drivers need a much more appropriate sleeping/fatigue management facility. This, of course, has been largely ignored over recent times, and better designed trucks must become readily available because, as we all know, length laws have been flouted by employers and equipment manufacturers and it’s time they were made to rectify this major anomaly urgently.

No more day cabs on changeovers, and no more trucks without engine off air-con units as standard.

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