Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

For many advocates for the trucking industry it can often feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall. There are some important points we need to get into the public domain and be brought to the attention of those in power. There are also plenty of barriers in the way of anyone trying to speak up for all of the people involved in trucking.

The industry faces a number of challenges, all of which have conspired to make it very difficult for the correct information, in the right context, to be laid out in front of people outside the industry.

A couple of them are those running agendas in which being anti-trucking is seen a positive for them to get what they want. A couple of the issues are self-inflicted, with segments of the industry working against others for their own purposes.

The trucking industry does suffer from a lack of understanding or care from the general public and most of the political class. Road transport is an unglamorous, awkward and low status industry in most peoples eyes. They would rather not see or hear anything about trucks and trucking. Their only contact with us is the interface where cars come into conflict with heavy vehicles, out on the highway. Trucks are simply an inconvenience.

Other industries can be seen as better run, or more environmental, when compared to us. The railway industry gets a good press, for example, because it is seen as cleaner and greener than trucking, it’s virtually invisible to the public and it’s represented by a single industry association.

Trucking, apart from in periods of extreme crisis, has never been able to represent itself as a single idea or message. It is always divided and disparate, conflicting messages abound. The catch cry for many in the nineties was for the trucking industry to have, ‘one message, many voices’.

This was something strongly pushed by Ron Finemore and many other at the time, but sadly, has not come to pass. If you are not putting forward a single, simple message, the politicians can comfortably ignore you. Conflicting advice will lead to inaction.

Transport is a major industry, a major contributor to the economy, we represent around ten per cent of Australia’s gross national product. Yet, we have little representation in the upper echelons of power and continue to be ignored.

The ABC Radio show, Nightlife, last week featured the trucking industry and had Philip Clark trying to get some answers to questions raised in the early part of this year. The spate of accidents on the roads of New South Wales, including five deaths and ten injuries set in train a number of events.

Statistics showed a sharp spike in fatalities in NSW in accidents involving trucks. The Government of NSW and the Police were clearly looking to answer the question, ‘what are you going to do about it?’ when they decided to go ahead with Operation Rolling Thunder.

The campaign succeeded for them. A lot of publicity showed the authorities doing something about the issue. There were plenty of defect and offences reported and the press had a field day. Whether there will be a drop in accident figures as a result of all of the intercepts and fines, is a moot point.

This provoked the ABC to get a representative of the truck drivers and the truck operators on the night time show. Some simple questions were asked and those who are supposed to know didn’t come across as actually knowing any of the answers.

Yet again, the trucking industry comes across as amateurish in PR terms and most of the calls revealed even more bickering between factions within the industry. We came across as a squabbling industry sector with little impetus to move in the right direction.

As I said at the beginning it feels like banging your head against a brick wall.