Truth shall set us free

By: The Interstater

It’s not rocket science to work out that driving four nights a week instead of five leads is a safer option

Truth shall set us free
Bit fatigued?


There are so many things wrong with the trucking industry nowadays; it’s hard to know where to start. But let’s have a crack at it anyway.

Surely no-one would be surprised if the employer associations came up as number one. They have been the biggest stumbling block in getting things done for the positive.

Instead of asking the Government to do more about reducing the accident rate and severity of truck crashes, why would they not be advocating for all truck accidents to be investigated as a workplace accident? Subsequently, not only would the police investigate the cause of the accident, as they currently do, but WorkSafe would be at the forefront of investigating the root cause of each accident from the point of view of finding a solution. That would go a long way to stopping that particular accident happening again.

What the associations don’t want is for their members to be scrutinised over their inherent antiquated policies and procedures.

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Some of the most dangerous words this industry lives by are, "That’s the way it’s always been done". That has, and always will be, a large chunk of the reason many accidents will continue and why all the smoke and mirror directives will go unabated.

Until the trucking company owners are held accountable, nothing will change while ever the blame is centred on the driver. Without investigating the events leading up to the time and place the accident happened, there can never be a system put in place to solve the status quo.

Until the owners get over themselves, until the owners stop caring more about their own ego, and their self-belief about how important they are, they can’t even begin to get real about the crash rate and how much they can do to fix it. No doubt, reading that will get the hairs standing up on the back of a fair few necks, but that’s the reality. Everyone knows it, everyone sees it every day, it’s such an ego driven industry and it starts at the top.

Remove the ego and the man at the top might understand that his way of doing things isn’t the only way. Maybe, just maybe, he might start accepting that he ain’t that clever because he isn’t doing anything that much different than everyone else has done over the past 40 or 50 years.

For instance, most employers in the trucking industry think truck drivers are a dime a dozen, otherwise they wouldn’t let some of their best drivers leave, all for the sake of not being prepared to do something, anything, to talk them out of leaving. We’ve all seen it, and many of us have been that driver.


No reward for loyalty

How often do we see a driver that has been driving for the same company for say, 10 or 15 years, be treated no better than the driver that started two weeks ago? How many drivers leave because of that? How many drivers leave a job because they are sick and tired of not being paid for all the time they sit behind the wheel of a truck and all the other related tasks? How often does an employer listen and back his drivers when he is made aware of how the operations manager has screwed them over? Or even taken an allocator to one side and made him think twice about the way he continues to do things?

These are all part of the equation when you take the blinkers off and seek the truth about the underbelly that is killing people, namely drivers.

How many employers are prepared to admit that the type, size and lack of attributes the trucks they choose to buy actually contribute to an accident? Try pointing out to him that the size of the bunk inadvertently became a contributor to the eventual accident he is trying to wade through. Try discussing how a better designed seat would have influenced the way in which a driver was able to sleep the day, or night, before the day of the accident. See where this is going?

Being able to make a rough trip into a smooth trip can be the difference between an avoidable accident and a death, and that may well be as simple as leaving a driver asleep instead of ringing him halfway through his REM sleep zone.

The difference between being able to sleep under a doona or on top of the bedding because it is too hot and uncomfortable is the key to reducing accidents. But try getting the majority of employers to understand the need for an engine-off air-con unit.

Curtains, yes curtains can help reduce accidents. Ever tried sleeping in a room filled with daylight shining in your eyes? Ever wondered how often your boss subjects himself to sleeping in the manner he expects you to manage your fatigue? If you are what is commonly referred to as the ‘HR person’, how many times are your recommendations followed through when it comes to implementing better practices and procedures to make life better and safer for the drivers?

If it is to be believed that the accident statistics are uppermost in everybody’s minds, then every contributing facet must be on the table for evaluation.


Irregular sleep patterns

Not being able to maintain a regular sleep pattern has been well documented to have a major effect on the alertness of people in the workplace, yet not prioritised in the trucking sector.

A case in point is mining. How ludicrous is it that so many fly-in, fly-out jobs demand that the first week is nightshift driving, the second week is dayshift, and the third week is back to nightshift? Surely something must be done there with the amount of emails received about it over the years.

What part of not being paid, to load and unload, doesn’t stand out as a factor? Perhaps it needs to be put into a simple explanation.

If driver ‘A’ arrives in Sydney after driving from, say Brisbane, and he spends two hours unloading, then spends three hours being stuffed around loading later that day, and he does that five days a week, he’s out of pocket 25 hours’ pay per week. And let’s remember, that’s after driving 12 hours overnight. So he is entitled to double time for those 25 hours so, yes, that now means he’s missing out on around 25 times $35 per hour. Not only is he compromised mentally and physically, and obviously in need of sleep, but that’s 25 hours he can’t use to sleep for the week.

Now, if driver ‘B’ works for a company that does pay hourly for all work done beyond the hours’ driving, not only is he $875 better off, it gives him the option of opting out of doing five nights each week because four nights a week earns him enough to spend an extra night at home, managing his fatigue. Plus, as a consequence, he is 20 percent less likely to have an accident on the highway each week and, due to his ability to be better rested, he is more capable of being alert in tight situations.

So perhaps we can justify calling driver ‘B’ a safer driver because he is being paid a safer rate?

Why should drivers continue being the ones getting knocked off for things they are not choosing to do, but placed into a situation, not of their own hand, all while not being paid every goddamned cent they are legally entitled to?

When an association says, "The path to a better road safety outcome is paved by evidence-based research so we need to know a lot more about the causes of heavy vehicle fatal crashes", it comes up hollow. That’s because they will never allow the truth, the facts, evidence to be investigated or get in the way of what it is they do for memberships. They will do whatever they deem necessary to protect them from the real causation of the continuing mayhem and disaster.

Whatever happened to the belief that "The truth shall set us free".

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