Quite often when an issue raises its ugly head for the trucking industry, a clear consensus emerges quite quickly. Although there may be nuanced differences between the positions taken by the various stakeholders, the general good is recognised and the various spokespeople for organisations and associations take a fairly similar line.
If there is no clear consensus between all of those involved and associated with road transport, there is little hope of us getting our voice heard. The trucking industry faces a number of implacable foes on the policy and PR front and cannot afford a disunited message. Any sign of weakness is all that is needed for organisations like the RMS et al, the Greens, anti-truck community groups, the general public and, of course, A Current Affair to stick the boot in.
Road transport is not like the farming industry, there is not a well stocked well of sympathetic goodwill towards the hard working truckie and their problems. For many the truckies are the problem. We need all of the stake holders involved with the trucking game to sing from the same, or similar, hymn sheet, otherwise the interests of trucking community, as a whole, will be adversely effected.
One area where this kind of disunity is obvious is the debate about roadworthiness for trucks. It is an issue we come back to again and again, and again, but there is a process in hand which a disunited truck community will have no chance of influencing, without speaking with one voice.
The events in Mona Vale were a catalyst highlighting a long term issue and one which does need a solution. It just needs a solution we can live with and not some knee jerk solution from the regulators. This is where a single voice comes in useful.
Instead we have a side issue which won’t derail the changes, but will take the focus away from getting the best result for the trucking industry.
Introducing the concept of extending the chain of responsibility to truck maintenance standards doesn’t sound like a bad idea at first glance. There is a COR system already there, however ineffective, and rule changes could bring the condition of the truck itself under the umbrella of COR.
However, just let this concept run for a bit and a few problems start to emerge. These problems are those which will effect those closest to the trucking industry, our customers and suppliers. The implications for them mean they are unlikely to support the inclusion of truck maintenance into COR.
Look at it from the point of view of the suppliers of truck maintenance or modification services. To avoid prosecution under COR they are going to have to add a long list of conditions to any invoice for any job, list any unresolved defects every time they work on a vehicle. The result is a legal and paperwork nightmare, paid for by higher charges from the supplier. It will form a wedge between trucking operator and supplier.
From the customer’s point of view the legal minefield of COR gets a lot more complex when maintenance is involved. They have some control over loading and unloading times, as well as the freight schedule. They can provide facilities to help drivers control fatigue. What they can’t do is go through a truck and trailers’ maintenance history and check if all of the jobs have been done before releasing a load.
Yes, COR for maintenance would be nice, but unlikely to get up. Wouldn’t it be better to come to an effective compromise which ensures improved maintenance outcomes for the trucking industry. A workable practical solution would be possible if everyone involved in the transport industry talked to the project developing the solution with one voice (or a selection of similar voices). The danger, in the current situation, is a solution will be found with which no-one is happy.