Voice your opinion to force industry change

By: Rod Hannifey*, Photography by: Greg Bush


OPINION: It’s time to get send your gripes to the decision makers instead of sitting back in silence

Voice your opinion to force industry change
A green reflector marks an upcoming rest stop on the Hume in Victoria

 

It’s a new year but I hope you don’t need a new truck this month. The only thing there is not a shortage of is shortages. People for jobs and components are all in short supply and yet we must all keep going. For what is the alternative?

Have you then been busy trying to keep up with the freight you can deliver or affected by things so you are losing work, or simply don’t have the staff or gear to do it?

The transport industry is often used as an indicator of economic activity. We have to deliver it all. So many watch but how accurate are the figures they use?

When we ask for better roads, they want to then charge us more to use them, yet we are not using them for us for fun, we are delivering the goods and services all Australians want and need, if not for themselves personally, then for their businesses.

So for everything we ask for – roads, rest areas, education for car drivers and then change, e.g. the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review – all those who make the decisions are doing so from their office, using data supplied to them by others. Yes, for all the above they will say they’ve "consulted" with industry. But who and how much did they listen? Perhaps the most important – did they really understand what they were told?

Surely you know about statistics – figures used to provide the basis on which to make the big decisions. But who compiled them, did they ask the right people and do the figures then put forward really show the true picture? Now this is all way above my pay grade and I will be the first to say I can’t truly expect to influence or often even be considered to provide suitable information or data, but then where does such data come from and how accurate is it?

Lowly truck drivers?

There are times when we have been asked to comment and provide information, but is what we provide been accepted as genuine? Is it seen as worthy of consideration? As we are but "lowly truck drivers", what would we know?

Submissions to many government inquiries, department inquiries and industry inquiries to go to government in many forms have been sought and supplied (and when so few make the effort, does it then give more weight or less?) and yet here we are still asking for the same things we wanted 30 years ago.

Now I will give credit to our associations for their efforts, they are well in with state and federal governments, their intents are genuine and mostly for the better, but do they truly represent drivers and have they achieved improvements for drivers? Does the union represent all drivers? So then how does your average interstate driver who has trouble keeping going each week (an owner-driver even more so in running their business as well as driving) get their views heard, listened to and truly accepted?


RELATED ARTICLE: Make a change through association membership


I have done it mostly alone for over 20 years now. Some of that was because (and I was told this by those inside but who were not allowed to tell me) I was seen as a loose cannon. Yet, I have never gone off the deep end or been truly radical. So I have stayed in contact and sought help. However, with some exceptions, I have received very little.

The green reflectors are a case in point. I have raised them with everyone but am still seeking them to go national after over 20 years. Something so simple, cheap and effective – having been told by many at different levels – and the best cost-benefit ratio of any road safety initiative. Yet, I’m still doing it alone.

So the intent of all this prelim is to again ask you three questions: do you want things changed, are you happy with the way things are now and what are you going to do about it?

Armchair critics

The new TruckRight Industry Vehicle (TIV) will be on the road by now (with the trailers still to come) and I have committed for another four or five years. That will take me to 70 and nearly 30 years involved as an advocate for change.

With the 2014 version of the TIV

Now you are more than welcome (and I will in many ways agree with you) to say that I have not achieved much for all that time and effort. I could have simply thought, "bugger it", I can’t change anything and no one else has, so I will sit back and let someone else do it. There are a few who have commented about me, saying I am in this for me, so please let them do their bit. I won’t stop them, but to say that means they have no idea how much time and effort you put in behind the scenes while driving full time to get anything done.

As I have said above, submissions by the dozen, emails by the thousands and phone calls by the tens of thousands over the years – and I agree with some – but what have I achieved?

My overarching intent from the start has been: if I save one life because someone saw the Truckies Top Ten Tips and gained some minor understanding, or someone pulled up in a green reflector bay instead of falling asleep, or someone in authority did a trip and gained some knowledge and better understanding of our issues and then actually did something about it, then it has been worth every minute.

I ask you all to consider, what have you done to see things change? Have you made one call about a bit of road? Have you put in one submission to an industry inquiry and have you done your bit individually? Or have you joined an association but then done little to help them help you? What will you do this year – sit back or make a difference? It is up to you.

 

*ROD HANNIFEY, a transport safety advocate, has been involved in raising the profile of the industry, conducting highway truck audits, the Blue Reflector Trial for informal parking bays on the Newell, the ‘Truckies on Road Code’, the national 1800 number for road repairs proposal, and the Better Roadside Rest Areas Group. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit www.truckright.com.au

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