The recent attention given to the trucking industry has led to a result, of sorts, for those trying to bring important issues affecting trucking to the fore. The bad news about increased accidents involving trucks, specifically in New South Wales led to a lot of media reaction and some useful initiatives by stakeholders.
One of the good signs was a more measured approach by some of the media. In the past, any kind of bad news like this would be reported with a litany of horrific truck accidents and little commentary from anyone apart from the Transport Workers Union, who would invariably fan the flames.
There was bad and inaccurate reporting in the general media but some of the basic truth was allowed out. Gratifyingly, the fact over 90 per cent of fatal accidents involving trucks are caused by the other vehicles did get a guernsey on a number of occasions.
Just being able to get this single fact, which shows road transport in a positive light, repeated across the media is a minor victory and shows some progress being made. Of course, we still have a long way to go to get our issues seen, heard and understood on the media.
Increased credibility came with the appearance of Michael Byrne on the TV news talking about his letter to the Prime Minister. A large corporate like Toll has a PR department to prepare the ground for him and he used his time effectively. He got the Toll point across and the message was another positive one for trucking in general. It showed we were aware and doing something about it.
Then up steps another figure who has an eye for a headline. Although couched in sensible terms, Melinda Pavey’s mention of a system which would give truck drivers electric shock if they started to fall asleep, was out there enough to get the media on the bandwagon.
In actual fact, there have not been real tests involving electrodes attached to some part of the driver’s anatomy, yet. However, a system was trialled in Japan around 2000, which involved spraying citronella in the driver’s face if their blink rate showed signs of fatigue.
Melinda was probably alluding to the safety systems which set up an unnerving vibration in the seat or kick the steering wheel. These are used here in Australia in limited forms.
The electric shock treatment did get Australian Trucking Association CEO, Ben Maguire, on the TV, though. His appearance on ABC’s The Drum was successful to a large extent. He did manage to get all of the important points across and managed to bring up the massive shortfall in suitable places to park up trucks at night on our major highways.
Unfortunately, the other panellists on the show were unable to prise themselves away from the shock therapy and using trains to replace trucks. Ben did reiterate the points he had made, so they were repeated on national TV. That’s a result.
At the end of the day we now have the re-emphasising of the regular meetings between representatives of the trucking industry and the NSW Government. What happens in NSW is important for all of us. Firstly, it is our main transit state, most freight travels through it. Secondly, with Melinda Pavey coming out publicly and talking up the discussions, the issue climbs up the priority ladder. Another positive result.
Have we got what we needed? No. Do car drivers know how to behave around trucks? No. Will traffic accident numbers start to decline again? We hope so. There is an opportunity to take the initiative and further improve safety awareness in trucking. As I said at the beginning, we have got a result, of sorts.