It would seem many people in the trucking industry will feel we dodged a bullet after the ABC Four Corners program on Monday highlighted many of the issues facing the industry in the recent past and the coming years. The program could have stirred up a great deal of anti-truckie feeling but was a restrained and informed look at the world of trucking.
In the run up to the show being aired there was a great deal of anxiety about what the TV would show and how strongly the public, and consequently the government, would react to stories about people being killed in accidents with poorly maintained trucks or where drivers were fatigued. Even Diesel News got caught up in the worries about the outcome.
What about the reaction within the industry? Now is not the time for relief about avoiding some of the nightmare scenarios, now is the time for action to ensure the industry is not at risk of being tarred with the same brush as a rogue operator. The TV show did demonstrate where the cracks are starting to appear.
The maintenance regime, as a whole, leaves a lot to be desired and many in the industry have been talking about how some operators can continue with some forms of accreditation when the trucks or trailers they are running are not up to scratch. A lot of resentment is felt by trucking operations competing for work against those they know to be flouting the regulations.
Many trucking operators would have got shivers down their spine watching a former operations manager sitting in front of the camera listing the company’s misdemeanours. There has been a culture of just wanting to get the job done for a long time in our industry. It is engrained in the DNA of many of us who have spent our lives in road transport. We have all seen these things happen and tried to minimise them, but they still occur.
Probably the most moving sequence on Four Corners was the story of the two unfortunate car drivers killed at the side of a West Australian highway by a fatigued driver drifting into their parked vehicles. No-one could complain about the punishment meted out the driver after his conviction. However, the story gave us all hope when the victim’s wife expressed her forgiveness to the truckie face to face and ended the story on a positive note.
Where do we stand after such an examination of our industry on prime time TV? We certainly are not in such a bad position as may have occured. Yes, NSW is clamouring about how tough it is going to be. Nothing new there! Cootes and Blenners are going through a legal wringer fighting to keep their business going.
I think trucking has dodged a bullet this week but we had better not react with complacency. Having dodged one bullet, now is the time to bite the bullet and get really serious about safety in our industry, so we don’t live in fear of the next exposé just around the corner.