Many of us who have been associated with the road transport industry for a long time cannot help but feel, it just never gets any better. Life seems to be full of disappointments, we get excited about some new promise and then are let down in its execution.
The prime example of a disappointment, this year, has been the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. It was all going live earlier this year and then…. Suddenly, it wasn’t. Of course, things are progressing now, but slowly and the state authorities have been throwing their weight around, hanging on to the power they have left.
We’ve had disappointments before. The Performance Based Standards scheme was going to make a massive difference to productivity. It hasn’t, hamstrung by niggling access problems and the lack of a genuine nationally agreed network.
Back in the early nineties the National Transport Commission was going to save the world, change the way the trucking industry was regulated and bring in national reform. It is coming up to 25 years soon and hasn’t quite lived up to that promise.
If you want to get really pessimistic, just compare freight rates from many years ago with what you can get these days. Some change but not a lot.
In fact, it’s worth taking some time to sit back and actually recall exactly how it went in those days. Then compare them to the life of the ordinary truckie today. Suddenly, it’s not so bad.
The trucks themselves were hard work to drive, uncomfortable and loud. I have the sciatica and deafness in the right ear to prove it. It was physically draining just to get a truck from A to B. The famed camaraderie on the highway was forged in the tough conditions the people woking in trucking had to suffer.
The modern truck is, generally, comfortable and quiet. Climb down from the cabin at a truck stop half way to Sydney now and there is no stiff back, ears ringing and scrabbling for change for the pay phone.
We complain about the roads today, but they are heaven compared to their predecessors. Schedules are tighter but average road speed is much, much higher. The change has been gradual, so we hardly notice it, but conditions have changed dramatically.
Some differences in the rules for trucks in each state are still with us but every year they do get less. Change is incremental but all going in the right direction. One day, even Western Australia and the Territory might decide to become part of the Commonwealth!
As we approach this festive time of year, I think it right we should put a positive spin on the past year and take an optimistic view of the year ahead. So, from Diesel News, it’s a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the team.