Irrational enforcement

By: Ken Wilke


Associations are looking to boost the ranks of truck drivers, as long as it’s not their own offspring

Irrational enforcement
Has enforcement gone too far?

 

I had a contract the other day that took me into a coal mine run by one of Australia’s larger businesses. As you can guess, there were all the workplace health and safety expectations. High visibility of course with long daks and long sleeves, hard hat, safety glasses, steel caps, and an expectation that the first parade service had been done on the gear before start-up that morning. There were no over centre dogs of course, and definitely no getting on the trailer deck. Just one metre above terra firma and wheel chocks to be used once parked, and a 3-metre safety radius once the load had been detached for crane lift. Oh yes, no using of mobile phone, both for safety and security.

I can’t think of any other expectations, but definitely no need to use one’s own mind.

I was to be the second lift off so that all the pieces could be married up just nicely. The first lift was achieved without drama. My turn came to back into position and I conducted myself on eggshells as I didn’t want to be the one to bring the group into disrepute. So the thing has been hoisted off and I’m directed to move out and set up the gear for the home run. I forgot and had to be escorted in and out. That’s not unusual on a mine site and once I’d packed the gear away, I had to wait the return of the escort vehicle.


 

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Suddenly I’m approached by someone with authority. One could just tell – the manner of the approach, the condition of the high-visibility clothing. My old RSM from ‘Nasho’ days would not have been able to pick his dress for anything. I have to say, I felt some trepidation. I’ve already pointed out that I was walking on eggshells for fear of stuffing up.

"What have I done", I asked when the gentleman was within talking distance. "Did you unload in the right order" was the question. And I have to say the question was submitted in a reasonable manner. "Absolutely," and my response was supported by the next driver waiting to offload.

A staffer had opened a door on "my" module and exposed a solid wall on the previous delivery. The sending organisation must have stuffed up. I tried checking serial numbers to determine the consecutive build and so on. In spite of little area for waiting trucks, after some time it was considered vital that all the boys would have to come in so that the proper sequence could be determined. If need be, the crane would have to lift my load out so the correct piece could be placed. Anyway ‘Mr Well Dressed’ said I was free to go as I could do nothing to assist.

Once escorted out, I’m off at the speed of a racing camel. I rang one of the boys the next morning to check on the outcome. There’s nothing like thinking outside the square. Someone suggested winding in some wire on the crane, swinging my load around 180 degrees and Bob’s your uncle.

 

On-road knowledge missing

A little bit in the same vein. I’ve been keeping abreast of some of the talk coming out of the "leading" associations. And I’ll bet 10 bob to a penny that all the good people making the utterances are well educated.

A thing that attracted my attention a little while ago was a move by a leading industry association to draw up what I believe is an industry version of what our national road transport law should look like. One thing that is for certain is the current rubbish is just that.

But I’m disappointed – greatly disappointed – that the good industry bureaucracy only saw fit to provide details of their draft effort to the National Transport Commission and to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

Clint Eastwood, in a speech to voters in the latest United States federal election, made a strong point of highlighting that politicians are the employees of society. Why is it that this industry’s bureaucracies, both private and public, seem determined to keep industry issues away from our politicians? And being in a position where I will be subject to whatever proposals have been put forward, if accepted, why haven’t these proposals been made available to the industry press for us poor rank and file to have comment. And what on-road knowledge do the creators of the proposals possess I wonder?

NatRoad and the Australian Trucking Association are concerned that the industry is unable to attract young people to the role of truck driver. Over the years I’ve attended quite a few industry talk festivals. While out on the road I have to admit to not being very outgoing but I have been out there now for some 44 years. In all that time I have encountered just one son of a prominent industry person doing the driving thing. And these days that "driver" is managing his own business.

To be blunt, it seems these people are looking to someone else’s sons and daughters to be fodder for the moneymaking aspirations of enforcement.

 

Increased enforcement

I’m absolutely gobsmacked at NatRoad’s hypocrisy. Again, I repeat the submission made by NatRoad to support the setting up of the hoped-for National Heavy Vehicle Regulation.

I quote: "A study encompassing the Sunraysia/Riverland region, March 2009, p18. Border crossings are a ‘high stress’ node in the transport network (Castalia, Securing a national approach to heavy vehicle regulation report to the National Road Transport Operators Association (NatRoad), February2009, p.22). According to industry sources, drivers who cross borders experience considerable ‘compliance stress’, with attendant health risks. Although this stress is non-quantifiable and has no direct economic impact, it influences drivers’ quality of life and on-road focus. It could also conceivably be a risk factor in fatigue management."

Since the so-called national regulator has come into being, enforcement has dramatically increased, but for no rational reason. The enforcement load carried by heavy vehicle drivers is irrational and extremely costly to drivers’ health through compliance stress. It does have beyond that a massive economic impact.

Not only have the regulations not passed any test to ensure the validity of the regulations, but in addition the deceitful use of terminology used to describe breach reporting combines to make a difficult occupation even less attractive to new entrants.

Difficult occupation? Long periods separated from family. Ludicrously poor opportunity to comply with irrational fatigue legislation, and such legislation enforced beyond reasonable limits of common sense.

What attracted the two or three NSW highway patrols and the Roads and Maritime Services people to Kundabung on the morning of September 11? Was it a drug deal gone wrong or was it an aggravated assault or someone severely injured in an accident? None of that, just truck drivers in the service of their society.

And what is the response of industry leadership? Put more emphasis on developing technology to make trucks and drivers safer. Instead of the opportunity to rest we mandate a sophisticated cattle prod to keep drivers awake. And all this crap when it is generally recognised that the other driver is at fault in the vast majority of accidents.

The NHVR – aren’t they just the gems of logic. Just now they are embarking on a lecture tour of local government to advise local government road managers (not road owners) of obligations in regard to oversize over mass permits. How many years has the NHVR been a fact? No, it’s not our fault, you have been doing it all wrong is their catch cry.

And the relaxation of load dimensions for drought fodder! Since these allowances cannot impinge on safety – that’s a given – can Steve now carry tractors whose exhaust poke 4.6 into the air? Does the 2.85 width allowance mean he will no longer have to apply for a permit to accommodate the bulge on the tractor tyres he is carrying?

And what is it about transport for or by primary producers that makes them responsible for 160km with no logbook and the likes of me not even being trusted for one kilometre (BFM). I can’t fathom which makes me the most frustrated – the ones who propose these double standards or those gibbering idiots who condone it.

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