This week the Queensland Parliament has been dragging the chain of responsibility reforms over the line and into National Law. It didn’t feel like an auspicious day and it could turn out, in the end, not to be particularly auspicious. When the initial chain of responsibility laws were introduced in the early 2000s we thought it was going to get the job done, but it hasn’t.
Perhaps, I am getting cynical, but the idea of a new set of rules around COR is not getting me all excited. In a couple of years time it could well be another case of deja vu, as the rules are enforced by the regulators and the trucking company always comes out wearing the blame.
One of the biggest problems for the COR rules, is the biggest offenders who are forcing trucking operators to push the limits are also the one’s which can afford the biggest collection of lawyers to protect them from prosecution under the new rules.
A second problem is how easy it is to hide the pressure put on operators in a flood of paperwork, telling everyone to do the right thing by each other, but ignored at the coal face where the risky decisions are made.
We all know from our day to lives just how nerve racking it is to deal with these giant corporations. You only have to try and change your broadband supplier or try and get a persistent fault in your car fixed under warranty to know what it feels like to be powerless and sound like a lone voice lost in the wilderness.
Now add into that uncomfortable feeling of frustration and lack of power, another pressure, that of owning a small trucking business. You have a business employing a small group of people you know very well and who depend on you to get their mortgages paid and feed the kids.
Add to this a wall of finance which would terrify anyone, when faced with trying to service a debt in an industry well known for microscopic profit margins. Then there’s the knowledge all of this house of cards is dependent on the say so of a couple of major decision makers in large corporations who will sign off on the next contract, or, worse still, be able to terminate you the next day, because there is no contract.
Most people’s reaction to this would be to appear swan-like. It is all going swimmingly as the freight glides from A to B, seemingly effortlessly. Meanwhile below the water the legs are going furiously just to keep the swan afloat.
Now, imagine yourself in this situation, and things are starting to go pear-shaped. There is a solution which will mean the customer knows nothing of any problem, but it would require the stretching of a rule to get the job done seamlessly. Tempted? Of course you are!
These are the kinds of pressures felt every day in our industry. These new COR laws are going to have to be pretty powerful to change this culture any time soon.