“The industry is paying too much now and the industry is subject to too much regulation now,” says Dave Coonan. A long-time campaigner for the trucking industry, David’s time at the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) saw him battling the legislators and bureaucrats, toe to toe, on a daily basis.
“They are focusing on areas there is no point in focusing on. Fatigue management has been done to death. The fact remains certain things are certain distances apart and if you change the driving hours regime, you change freight movement in this country, fundamentally.
“I think the industry owes its drivers a lot more than it gives. The activities of truck drivers is something very few people, who thought about their own welfare, would actually go and do. I’m not sure what the solution is. The political climate which wants to bash up drivers all of the time is wrong.
“There should be much more facilitation of the activities they have to do, so that it can be done more smoothly. The fines are just over the top for what the risks are. Some of the silly things about mass enforcement, where you have a situation where a truck does less road damage in one configuration, but it is breached because it’s over on an axle. It’s under on gross, it’s a ridiculous situation we’ve been trying to correct for years. It has no basis in any sound legislative platform.”
Dave recalls talking about access arrangements with the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) in NSW. When presented with an RMS permit given to an operator, the RMS tried to tell him it wasn’t their permit, and policy would not allow what was on the permit.
“People should be focusing on what is the right thing to do, rather than saying there’s a rule and we have to enforce it and make the rules tougher,” says Dave. “If you were actually to sit back and look at the freight task, how to make it safer from the industry and road agency point of view, we would be running combinations on the Hume Highway we don’t currently allow. We should be doing it sooner, because it’s safer. We could collectively present the same argument to the community, saying what we have done is better for everyone concerned.”
In Dave’s opinion the powers that be talk about ‘informed’ policy, but don’t actually like the results of informed policy. The truck industry has promoted multi-combination trucks which are modular, so they can interchange elements and remain compliant. Dave has concerns about some current developments.
“If we had more trailer combinations on the Hume, the trade-off should be those combinations are safer, with better roll stability, for example,” says Dave. “Unless we can roll couple an A-double, which is a road train, should we be putting it on the Hume Highway? Why aren’t we looking at roll couplings or transfer couplings, which do exist?
“We should be looking at our needs as a country. We have forty-foot containers coming in and they will go to international standard weights, whether we like it or not. This is the challenge we have, we want a vehicle which can move two forty-foot containers at full export weight, fully roll coupled with as many tyres under it, so it doesn’t damage the pavement.
“The answer is there, but you will be forced through a PBS process, which is not being used to facilitate as much as it should be. They say, ‘go through PBS, go jump another hurdle’. It should a matter of saying, ‘here’s a solution’. Someone like the NTC should be bringing forward better combinations for the nation.”