OPINION: Health of the industry

By: Ken Wilkie

The trucking industry is in dire need of a health test, starting with a number of drivers

OPINION: Health of the industry
Holiday snap: Trucks lined up to cross the Suez Canal. Not many bonnets and no obvious toilet facilities


Going back a few issues, John Beer was calling for bureaucrats to experience life on the road (Owner//Driver August 2019, page 33). That was the aim of Rod Hannifey in setting up his TruckRight Industry Vehicle. I should know as I made it possible for him to kick it off – a dumb owner-driver had stepped up.

Obviously I share the ambition to which John Beer refers. No one in the corporate world had the desire to go out on a limb to support Rod. When it is all said and done, it is members of the corporate world in and out of road transport who have engineered the decline of conditions of employment in road transport.

Too few are prepared to take a stand against immorality. Too few are prepared to stand up in case some "person" raises an issue. A bank is denying loans to owners/employees of legally operated gun shops. Terrible things guns, but as with all of our tools; they’re in the wrong hands! Maybe smokers will be the next to be denied because the dainty among us consider it a filthy habit.

Chris Roe most aptly uses the term "paralysis of intellect" in his letter in Owner//Driver September 2019 (page 60). In the majority of issues he raises, I agree. However, I suggest there is a paralysis of morality weighing down this society. A judge in Queensland sentences a bloke to a couple of years for sexually molesting a young child of seven years.

The law allows 14 hours so the corporates expect 14 hours overnight or close to it. A few years ago one could work the wharves in Brisbane on an hourly rate. Guess who stuffed that up? Truckies who used to "hang out" to boost their hours charged.

Times have changed again. Now it is immoral to pay on a contractual basis because members (truck drivers) lack the morality to operate in a safe and considerate manner when under contract.

You think road transport is bad – talk to a family running a dairy farm! These people are in the grip of the mother of all droughts but that does not soften the stranglehold of the major corporate shopping concerns.

Coffs’ curfew

So what is it with the city of Coffs Harbour and oversize loads? Someone – council, Roads and Maritime Services or the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator – have imposed a curfew on anything beyond two point five wide. I’m told the free time is between 9am and 3pm. Obviously, summer time gives more flexibility before 7am and after 6pm – but winter? And any time I’ve been through Coffs Harbour it’s peak hour for tourists.

Oh, and finding the curfew details on the magic box is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. One can go to the magic box and find guidelines for excess dimensions. The title explains that the booklet (once printed) is for vehicles carrying indivisible loads, special purpose vehicles and vehicles that require a pilot or escort.

Now I am but a dumb truck driver, but I would have thought it logical that details of curfews (as curfews are an issue facing operators in the mentioned fields), would be listed in a notice detailing other issues facing oversize and/or overmass (OSOM) operators. Refer to John Beer’s comments in the August issue. Is Coffs a paralysis of intellect or a paralysis of morality?

On the hook

As for the the New South Wales tow truck licensing fiasco, I’ve had a couple of comments from people transporting wrecked vehicles consigned from auctions in that state to a dismantler.

If it is fitted with a winch, the driver is required to be licensed as a towie. That will set you back fifteen grand per year. Ten of that 15,000 is for on-the-hook insurance, which covers to a maximum of $900,000. If the vehicle value exceeds the one hundred; just add another $10,000 for each multiple of one hundred grand.

On the hook insurance covers for a mishap while pulling the vehicle onto the transporter – it’s compulsory. Once on the transporter, then the usual maritime insurance takes over. And if the broom or shovel handle is too long or short, it’s a requirement of the licence to carry both broom and shovel; then fork out $600.

And it looks like our overarching association has gone to sleep on the damaged number plate fiasco. One can go to parts of Melbourne – and many other destinations in metropolitan Australia – where curfews have been put in place to pander to tender local darlings. There’s no consideration for those of us confronting such curfews. And no advice as to where one can lay over in safety. Plus there’s no information readily available in such documents as the OSOM guidelines.

Rod Hannifey and John Beer have made comments about the impossibility of grass roots operators finding information regarding the new laws being suggested. It is an ongoing saga. Bureaucracy is in fairyland and management has a callous indifference to the plight of those subjected to the rubbish.

Will Western Australia ever be taken to task for its persistent refusal to follow the principles of Australia’s free trade between states’ requirement in the constitutions? What a farce this national regulation has become. Paralysis of intellect or paralysis of morality?

Medical checks

Again going back a few issues. You’d probably understand that beyond a couple of issues I took on board with me during my break, Owner//Driver magazine was not readily available on the ship. Warren Clark, voicing a view from NatRoad, is calling for or at least explaining some issue in relation to compulsory medicals for commercial drivers. In the good old days when I was doing dangerous goods, the legal requirement was for a medical every three years until the age of 50 when the expectation is for that medical to be undertaken every year.

My point is that the required medical was undertaken – and a thorough medical it is was. However, it was only when we fronted to walk the Kokoda Track that my real health situation was discovered. That discovery was made after a stress test to determine if I could survive the Kokoda exertions. It was found that I was a drop dead candidate and I was engaged in transporting arsenic acid – 24 tonnes of the stuff. I could have been famous, though dead.

I would suggest that all drivers; commercial and otherwise, be required to successfully complete a medical – one that includes a stress test every three to five years until the ripe old age of 50 wherein it be conducted every year.

I strongly suggest that the association that claims to represent the road transport industry at parliamentary level make it a plank of its safety campaign to strongly advocate to governments, both state and federal, that driver education be included in the secondary school curriculum. In parallel with that effort, there needs to be a campaign to have all drivers undertake medicals, both as a road safety initiative and to protect the health and wellbeing of the majority of Australians. An invasion of privacy? I don’t think so.

A king size pat on the back for the community of Eromanga in south west Queensland. No bloody curfews there. But they do have community-maintained showers and toilets for travellers, be they truckies, grey nomads or whoever. They’re spotless and there’s no charge, just a request that users do not steal the toilet rolls. Pinching of toilet rolls is apparently a practice being undertaken by some less-than-considerate or so-called honest tourists.

My required reading this month: The Cost of Courage by Charles Kaiser.

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