It seems to be about time those with the power to change things started engaging with trucking. They can’t just continue to restrict and regulate us, hand down commandments, without engaging with the trucking industry and community.
There are a lot of misconceptions about trucks and trucking. The results of these misconceptions can vary a lot, but many of them have adverse consequences for trucking or the general public. For others, who have no real idea of what goes on in trucking and on the highways of Australia, there are no direct consequences and they can go on their merry way unaffected.
Misconceptions abound. Car drivers think a truck can stop as well as their car and there is no need to leave some stopping distance in front of a truck. This situation could see the truck ending up running into the rear of the car which has just filled the truckie’s braking distance. However, the truck will be at fault and the media will report it as a truck accident.
The car driver may be injured, the car is damaged as well as the truck. The truck driver may end up with a fine. all of this as a result of the car driver not knowing how to act around trucks. Of course, this is one small example, but this kind of situation can be extrapolated across a number of situations, all of which are detrimental to both trucking and the general public.
It’s a similar situation with road authorities, road designers, road builders, transport regulators, traffic police. They do not engage with the trucking industry, take little consideration of its needs and requirements and there are no adverse consequences for this. There have been some excellent exceptions to this rule, namely the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, who have tried to be as inclusive as possible, engaging with trucking at many levels. Also the initiative from the NSW Police to talk to truckies over a coffee shows an understanding of the issues.
One of the issues which will come up in these engagements is something this column touched on last week, the lack of parking bays and the chronic lack of facilities in said bays. Unfortunately, neither the regulator or the police have any control over the way our roads are built or laid out. Our road authorities do, but they are not engaging with anyone, they simply build what is needed.
What is needed? A road which will keep the politicians who make policy decisions on road funding happy. One which will please those politicians’ electorates. What pleases the electorate? Less traffic congestion for car drivers.
Build a road which keeps this demographic happy at the lowest possible cost. The car drivers see progress being made, they vote for the politician, who keeps their job, the road funding continues, the road designer keeps their job. Everyone is happy.
Not quite. One of the cost saving measures was to not include as many parking spaces, and at the right intervals along the highway, as the government specifies. The trucking industry continues to live with a lack of parking for trucks, fatigue issues mount, truckies get pinged for parking illegally or for driving on past a full parking bay.
However, there are no consequences for the road builder, designer or policy maker. They are deemed to have done their job well, and, as usual, the trucking industry lives with the consequences.
Where can we short circuit this issue? By getting the politicians to engage with the trucking industry enough to understand just what is needed out on the highway.
After last week’s column about parking, I have had a number of people contact me, saying we need to engage with the politicians, get them to spend a few hours in our shoes, come along for a ride in a cabin and see how the other half live.
We need a concerted effort to get this engagement going, many of our transport ministers are new to the job and the quicker we get them up to speed the better.