Quite often in this column the issue causing grief is the way the trucking industry is perceived by the wider community. Trucking, in general, presents itself badly out on the streets, with truck drivers reinforcing stereotypes in the public’s mind by being intimidating and thoughtless.
We are even worse at presenting ourselves in the media, there seems to be a collective lack of awareness about how to get our point across without giving the general media a chance to put us and our industry down.
The one exception to this is a person who works on his own, independent of any organisation, holding down a full-time truck driving job at the same time as interacting with the media and government. Rod Hannifey is well known for banging on about the same topics for many years, but he has been effective and is regularly featured in news reports about the industry. Unfortunately the biggest news doco of the year, Four Corners, chose to ignore him and concentrate on an unrepresentative rogue element to represent truckies.
Rod’s strength does not come from who he represents or from an important sounding job title, it comes from a concentrated long term effort to get the right message across to the right people. The message is always plain and simple, he hits the same notes consistently, driving home the safety, responsibility, courtesy message on the roads and documenting the state of our highways to the authorities.
Compare this to the mixed messages and non-soundbite material put out by other spokespeople for trucking. Often the real message gets caught up with politically correct jargon obscuring the stark reality. There is a reluctance to criticise those who are at fault, especially those in the industry, and a certain amount of in-fighting among those representing us. The only media which pick up on these releases are the trucking trade publications, talking only to the truckies, not the general population.
Rod Hannifey gets little coverage in the trade mags, he’s more interested in talking to local media and TV stations out on the road, where the trucking industry actually functions. The most recent coverage he has received was from the West Coast Sentinel, a newspaper based in Ceduna at the Eastern end of the Nullarbor crossing. The message was clear and simple, reducing accidents, by improving car drivers’ understanding of trucks, and improved rest stops for drivers.
Look at the side of the Truckright B-double Rod drives around the nation and there is a lot of reading to be done. The message is set out in all of its detail for anyone to read, Rod understands the bigger issues and will offer an opinion. Talking to us in the industry he can be as long winded as the rest of us are.
However, turn up next to his cab with a notepad, camera or voice recorder and he will go into simplified message mode. You will see him hitting the same bullet points to make it easy for the media, for whom the truckie’s world is another planet, to put together a straightforward good news story with an important positive message. Job done! Why can’t the rest of us do it?