OPINION: Groundhog year

By: Rod Hannifey

Another year passes – more restrictive rules, more negative press and few fresh faces in the industry

1. Ageing industry. oct 18.jpg

A new year, a major law review and a senate inquiry. Surely with such auspicious efforts behind us we will see all our problems solved – don’t you agree? What’s that you say? No? How can you even think that? Surely all those who have contributed their wealth of experience (though I do sincerely wish there had been many more) along with those in government who must surely listen to our concerns as expressed, will take all into account and come up with the perfect solution and solve all our problems.

Don’t we all wish? I see there has been a suggestion of having all on 13 hours and maybe advanced fatigue management (AFM) as the only other option. So why affect those on basic fatigue management (BFM) now, who can and currently do the job safely, by restricting them further? All must agree they haven’t stopped fatigue crashes by more and more restrictions which create less and less flexibility, then adding bigger penalties.

My personal view, and I would welcome all others, is that if we had enough suitable rest areas and perhaps were allowed split rest twice a week and not on consecutive days, then we would do more to allow us to safely manage our fatigue than anyone else will ever do sitting in their airconditioned office with hot and cold everything at their fingertips.

How many of you have seen and heard of surveys into our job and lifestyle, which we will agree are mostly done with the best intent for the purpose of the exercise? But when we hear the findings, we simply can’t believe them as anywhere near truthful, let alone accurately representing our lives on the road.

I agree there must be research, but it is like facts. If you ask the question one way, you get the answer you want, but another way, even though the question is really the same, you get another answer.

Driver involvement

If from these reviews we have people wanting to change our hours and/or rest periods, based on what they believe they know, but the basis and ideas are flawed at the start because we did not or could not contribute, then I will be long and loud if I disagree. The problem there is that if it’s only me no one, let alone those in authority, will listen.

How do we change this? How do we get more drivers involved? I wish I knew. We tried the drivers club and like any group it is only as good as its members. No group, union or association, can operate effectively and truly represent those members if only a handful make the effort to contribute.

Take our Heavy Vehicle National Law Review and Senate inquiry. How many of you knew about them? How few contributed and how many will complain when the results given out at the end don’t suit you?

How do we get to the new drivers (and of course how do we even get them interested in the job the way it is) to get them involved?

If you look at the United States, some fleets have more than 100 per cent a year turnover of drivers. They promise a lot, deliver a lot less and then wonder why drivers leave. Then they have to get more drivers in to keep the wheels turning. Surely it’s not only a costly exercise in chasing them, getting them in and training them (how much and how well if at all, big factors here). What about the cost of inexperienced drivers and the damage as they learn, let alone the damage to your business and customers as things don’t get delivered, etcetera?

Wages in the US are going up to retain and also to attract drivers, as they have a bigger lack of experienced drivers than we do. But you must look after those you have, as new drivers can and do cost a lot more in the short term.

Bad press

Would you recommend your children become truck drivers now? If not why not and what can be done to change the industry to make it attractive to newcomers?

We can’t say it is fantastic when it is not. We still get too much bad press, far more than we deserve, yet we can’t get many good stories out and so we are fighting the mainstream media as well, to get people interested in joining us on the road.

So for this New Year I would ask for two things from all you experienced long haul lorry drivers. Tell me the one thing you think will make the job safer on the road, make it easier to be more complaint and less likely to be infringed. What change will help you instead of punish you?

Number two is, what do we do to change how we are seen by the public and how do we get new and young drivers into the industry? You can help by contributing, you can help by thinking about it and having a say.

If you do nothing, nothing will change as I and two others can’t do it all alone.

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