If there is one thing in life of which we can be certain, it is there is always a potential public relations disaster just around the corner for the trucking industry. The art is to know where it is coming from next, and to be able to react in a timely fashion to get something out there in the media to counteract the inevitable negative spin, just about, every media outlet will put on any story.
Just on the horizon this week is a trucking company owner who is facing trial for manslaughter through gross negligence in Adelaide. The trial is expected to drag out over several days with 40 witnesses to be called in the case surrounding the death of a truck driver, killed when his truck collided with a road sign.
The driver himself was swerving to avoid a collision with other vehicles on the road, but police allege the cause of the crash was brake failure. Two other drivers are involved, as the operator is also accused of endangering their lives when they drove the truck beforehand.
The case is expected to be long and complex. The trial has been scheduled to start on December 15 in the South Australian Supreme Court. The timing could mean the story will get national coverage during the Christmas period when the news cycle goes quiet relatively quiet.
A loophole created by mistake by the law makers in NSW, in which the rules do not specify the need for a technician working on truck repairs needs to be qualified, looks like it will be closed, but not before the media have gone to town on the subject, bringing out a litany of fatal crashes involving trucks, in which maintenance was said to be a factor.
Here, the story should have been about the incompetence of those drafting legislation in the state, but the news stories around the issue only seemed to put the trucking industry in a bad light.
The difficult situation the federal government finds itself in, with regard to getting legislation through the Senate is also going to spell trouble for trucking. The failure to deliver on the promise to repeal the legislation introducing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal means the subject of irresponsible trucking operators putting truck drivers lives at risk is going to get a good run in the New Year.
The Tribunal has become a well designed stick for the Transport Workers Union to use to beat the trucking industry with. Many involved in trucking have little understanding of the implication of the Tribunal, but the union certainly do.
The TWU is well organised and thorough in its preparation before bringing issues to the table for consideration by the Tribunal. The ground is prepared with research into the issue, facts are ascertained and surveys carried out.
A complete package is presented both to the Tribunal and the media. The facts are clearly stated and described in simple terms for the most impact. There are plenty of articulate and passionate spokespeople available and, as a result, the story gets a good run in the media.
Where the trucking industry falls down over and over again is being ready for this sort of thing. Where are their facts and figures, surveys and passionate spokespeople? The response is often too little too late, the news cycle has done its dash on the topic and the trucking industry message is minimised or lost.