This week has the seen the new face of roadside enforcement unveiled a little more clearly with those representing the different stakeholders in the trucking roadside enforcement game giving us their two bobs worth in Melbourne. The venue was the regular ‘meet the inspectors’ session at the ATA Technical and Maintenance Conference.
This event has been a great yardstick over the years, showing us just how things were going out there on the side of the road at the interface between the trucking industry and the regulators, both state and federal.
A few years back the session could be described as confrontational. There was a lot of pent-up tension on both sides of a considerable divide. People working in the trucking industry were pretty dirty about the whole way their trucks were being policed. The lack of consistency, the pointless fines for minor, so-called, breaches, rogue road side officers, the list was long.
The people representing the state authorities and the police were unrepentant about the way the trucking industry was treated. There were plenty of powerpoint slides showing the undersides of trucks with brake boosters hanging off, cracked chassis members, non-existent tyre tread etc.etc. The roadside guys did not back away from harsh criticism.
This caused more tension as the responsible operators in the room resented being tarred with the same brush as the cowboys who spent their life undercutting them on rates. The inherent mistrust and antipathy between the two sided of the argument was palpable and, seemingly, a permanent fixture.
Cut to this week in the Automotive Centre of Excellence in Melbourne’s Docklands and the picture looks the same, but is, in fact, very different. Some of the same faces are up there on the dais are the same but the message they are delivering is very different. Probably, more importantly, the temperature in the room is much lower, there less steaming frustration in the trucking industry delegates in the audience.
It is clear something has changed, but what exactly it is which has changed is not quite so easy to identify. These workshop managers, operations managers and owner drivers are still dealing with a number of different authorities and enforcement regimes. However, this doesn’t appear to be as big an issue as in the past.
What is clear both from the delegates in the audience and the representatives of enforcement on the stage is there is a clear directional change. The country is moving, slowly but surely towards nationally consistent laws and enforcement. The roadside officers are becoming more collaborative and less likely to ping a driver for a trivial mistake.
The message has got through to all and sundry that a world in which everyone is pulling together in the same direction of better, safer trucks on the road, and less of the revenue raising and deliberately provocative attacks on the industry in the media, is a better world for everyone.
It’s not the dawn of a wonderful golden age but looks liked the beginning of a much more rational approach to the way trucking is regulated on the roadside. About time too!