Loose lips sink driver

By: Ken Wilkie


OPINION: A work diary indiscretion, picked up by an employer, could be bait fish to enforcement officers

Loose lips sink driver
Opinion: Ken Wilkie

Fatigue and electronic work diaries (EWDs) – haven’t any of these techno wizards ever studied logic? Headlines in another industry paper: ‘Now’s the time to make fatigue management electronic’. Every time I see this sort of rubbish I feel like doing a chunder. Managing compliance with fatigue rules is not managing fatigue, stupid. Managing fatigue is a different matter.

Here’s some recent information. When a responsible company management delegates a staff member to review an operator’s work diary and that staffer discovers a non-compliant entry, the accepted practice I’m told is for that non-compliance to be noted and the offending operator educated to ensure no further indiscretions are committed. Now, a little bird has told me that should that bad record remain in the book and be discovered by enforcement, the policy is to breach.

No wonder so many work diaries are lost or destroyed by accident. Where do these dictators get off? There is no option but to lose incriminating records with EWDs.

That attitude answers a lot of drivers’ concerns about minor discrepancies with compliance via EWDs. It’ll be: "Hit them with a fine boys, we need every five cent piece we can find." The only thing with that is that bureaucracy does not recognise five cent pieces as legal tender and anyway, five cent pieces are insignificant to offset the exorbitant cost balanced against profit of bureaucracy.

I’m going to end up rotting in a back alley one of these days. I made a public statement some weeks ago. The highest remunerated groups in this country do nothing to contribute to the economy – namely bureaucracy and politicians. It is a real worry. Sadly, management is so bound up with being politically correct that their lips are sealed with ultra-strong adhesive gaffer tape.

I definitely don’t advocate drivers using tooth picks to keeps one’s eyes open or sitting on a chair that could erupt into volcanic shakes and shudders at any time. I definitely don’t want to end upside down in Bakers Creek after almost completing an overnight run. "Wonder what went wrong there? Probably wasn’t using an electronic work diary!"

All this current crap is about companies dodging any suggestion of being dragged into a Chain of Responsibility action. The current wish list for conforming to heavy vehicle accreditation is that a driver is expected to note on the daily work diary page that he or she is fit to drive. Now my simplistic attitude is that the very act of filling in a page when starting carries the statement that one considers him or herself fit to drive. For Christ’s sake, do we fill in the bloody book if for whatever reason we don’t drive? Be that too drunk or doing isolation for COVID or whatever?

Queensland has had a particularly horrendous year for on-road fatalities. Yes, I accept the view that just one death is too many. Having said that, I won’t live to see the ambition of no road fatalities achieved.

Speeding fallacy

The deputy PM was recently quoted expressing horror at the multiple deaths that he had knowledge of as a cadet newspaper man. That is part of the issue. Until the cause of each and every accident is made public in a timely manner, how the bloody hell can we educate ourselves to avoid those risky situations? Mr ATA (Australian Trucking Association), it is called education! Telling drivers to slow down is no answer. Indeed, I consider that empty-headed call only aggravates the situation.

All driving is speeding. I’d like some information on the numbers of ‘accidents’ where illicit drugs were involved – or alcohol or fatigue.

National Transport Insurance has done great work in advising of times of day and the like. No one has yet had the fortitude to reveal how many heavy vehicle accidents have taken place when the heavy vehicle driver was out of hours. And no one has had the fortitude yet to tell us how many deemed fatigue accidents occurred while the driver was within regulated hours. That may undermine bureaucracy’s determination to be so bloody minded in relation to the rigidity of the crap they are enforcing.

Why are responsible operations advocating the fitting of those sophisticated cattle prodders? Why does every page of the work diary – duplicates and all – carry the warning ‘not to drive if impaired by fatigue’? Logically it just doesn’t add up. But it does add up if one considers that the ambition for all of this frivolous record keeping is designed to protect against a chain of responsibility accusation.

Capitalist response

One of our larger transport organisations, which rely to some extent on subcontractors, had an issue prior to Christmas in sourcing sufficient transport capacity to fulfil its obligations to one of its customers. It must have faced a bit of pressure to perform to its contract requirements. The company responded to its supply and demand crisis in the time honoured capitalist manner. In a sort of a way it increased the offered rate to do the work. Sort of a way?

All of the work involves use of the Pennant Hills Road bypass tunnel. Instead of offering an increased rate per tonne to cover tolls, it has invited its subbies to add toll costs to invoices. I wonder how much extra revenue it will collect from contractor accountants failing to include the addition?

Rod Hannifey has expressed some concern regarding drivers passing closer than necessary to vehicles adjacent to roadways. That brings to mind the stupid expectation that drivers approaching stationary operating angry lights slow to 40km/h. That expectation reflected a lack of understanding of the kinetic forces operating with heavy vehicles. But I appreciate the position of those working adjacent to speeding traffic. It is not a particularly pleasant place to be.

Coming north at Chinderah the other night the angry lights were operating and I was in some doubt as to what was going on. A quick flash of high beam to ensure the activity was road side and a judicious movement to the right lane so as to give as much space as possible while easing off the pedal. I was impressed to be rewarded with a quick flash of a copper’s head lights. It’s just a bit of consideration for the comfort of others.

My required reading for this month: Radio Girl by David Dufty

*KEN WILKIE has been an owner-driver since 1974, after first getting behind the wheel at 11. He’s on his eighth truck, and is a long-time Owner//Driver contributor. He covers Rockhampton to Adelaide and any point in between. His current ambition is to see the world, and to see more respect for the nation’s truckies. Contact Ken at ken@rwstransport.com.au

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