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Regulators know nothing of life in the truck lane

OPINION: Pampered decision makers would do us all a favour by taking a long ride in a heavy vehicle

lot of things are up in the air at the moment, many of which will have just happened (I hope) and gone well by the time you read this. The rose-coloured glasses are shining there I know, so let us dream for a moment and imagine what it would be like if only three things changed.

Imagine if the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review was finally completed and, not only did it actually deliver some fair and reasonable change, but the governments all adopted it. I recognise this is a dream and we have to add some reality to it, but that will spoil everything – so we won’t.

I had a driver recently ask me are we better off with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR)? While it has had some issues and there are things I would like to see done quicker or a bit differently, I believe we are much better off than we were years ago.

Now there are those in the NHVR who are just as frustrated as we are that they cannot do certain things. While the National Transport Commission (NTC) can put forward the magical changes we want from this ongoing review (and then the review of the review), the government can pick and choose what they will accept. Different governments will choose different bits and around we go again, heading away from one set of rules we would all like to see for most things.

The NHVR can put in submissions from the likes of you and me, but not many of you do. It’s me and a few others. Then the NTC and the government will say, ‘Only 20 truckies complained, so it must be okay with what we are doing and we will just do what we think is right’. And there, my friends, is the biggest problem.

Privileged pollies

How many of those who decide these things for us, hopefully with the best intent (but not always), will ever spend a single day in a truck on the road?

How many will be looking for a parking spot to get a good sleep after a shit of a day, or looking for a toilet for a short visit, let alone a shower or a good feed? The decision makers all stay in top-of-the-line accommodation when travelling or, if a pollie, eat at Parliament House (doesn’t matter which one) and eat the terrible and expensive fare they are stuck with. The poor buggers. We must all feel for them having to suffer so much for us mere mortals.

How many will be travelling down the road after being stuffed about by a customer, then bouncing up and down over our roads that will bang them and their truck into submission so they can then be knocked off for something loose or broken at the next local weighbridge? Then when they go 10 minutes further to find a parking bay or get a good feed and then get a fine for that too. What more could we ask of any authority trying to keep us all so safe?

So, the review fixes some of the ongoing issues, removes many of the fines that have little or nothing to do with road safety and gives us some flexibility. That alone would be like Santa giving the drivers a present in itself. Then we would not have to dream about the police giving us a fair go from the bullshit penalties they are using to make us safer (sorry that should read ‘top up the government coffers’) in the name of road safety. Of course that’s the only reason they are doing it, isn’t it?

Patch-up jobs

Lastly, we would see roads not just patched badly but fixed properly and those repairs would last for years. None of that scraping bitumen off the truck and trailers from the flaky stuff flung onto the road by those fantastic wastes of money machines, but truly fixed. What a world it would be What are we doing to see such dreams even likely to be possible, let alone happen?

A fellow phoned into Nightshift and asked why we can’t do 110 on the Hume (hell, why can’t we even do 100 on the eighth wonder of the world – you may know it as the Toowoomba Bypass one way mess). I replied I was told at the National Speeding Summit I attended (as the only truckie in Canberra in 2003): “While ever we catch trucks doing 147 down the dipper, don’t bother asking again.”


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Of course, we still have some who don’t take well to rules, some who may not know better and some who are simply stupid. Every group has members of each type, no matter what the group. But we have changed, we have improved, our crash rate is down more than that of cars, yet we do more kilometres at higher weights and there are many more of us and the cars we share the road with. But is that enough? So I ask you all in good faith and with you knowing I plan to keep trying to do my bit for the next four years or so, are you legal and compliant? Yes, we need a few fixes as at the start and they might happen, but to get anything changed you have to do your part. No one else can or will.

So can we all try a bit harder? Can we try to be seen and recognised as the true on-road knights and professionals we are all either told we are not, or that we should be? Yes, we must push gently for change that is worthwhile and safe and helps us do our job better and more efficiently, but if we don’t, who will and how can anyone do that alone?

Can we make change happen, only if we make the effort to see it done.  

*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. Rod is the current president of the NRFA. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail
rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit
www.truckright.com.au

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