Slowly Slowly Catchee Monkey

Remain Vigilant

It is a phrase dating from the bad old days of British colonialism, but ‘Slowly Slowly Catchee Monkey’ is also how trucking rules reform seems to be travelling. The latest changes announced by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) bear this out with the final return of the self-clearing defect at roadside inspections.

There are two conflicting explanations as to the origin of the phrase we are discussing. One is all about British soldiers catching monkeys as pets by setting traps with a basket of fruit. The monkey could fit its hand through, but not remove it with a piece of fruit in its grasp. The second is from Boy Scouts founder, Robert Baden-Powell, who adapted an old Ashanti (Ghanaian proverb) to describe his softly, softly approach to deploying military patrols in hostile territory.

If there is one thing we can agree on, it is the development of a single regulatory regime for trucks is an exceedingly slow process. There is progress, but sometimes it seems to be at a snail’s pace. The most important thing is there is progress and we are moving towards some form of national (or east-coast) integration.

Before the NHVR came into existence, there was plenty of well-founded cynicism about what it could achieve, but the feeling was any kind of improvement, even at a low level, would be better than the mess we had to deal with before. It was bad, annoying, and unjustifiable, so any small movement towards a more rational regulation of trucking had to be welcomed.

This latest announcement, was one of a few released by the NHVR this month. The new self-clearing defect notice for heavy-vehicle defects that do not pose a safety risk sounds very like the official warnings we were used to getting in some states in the past. This indicates a return to some sort of rationality, even if we had to get rid of them all together before NHVR set about convincing some of the more recalcitrant states to join the club and introduce some tolerance into the rules.

It’s simple and straightforward – the issuing of a self-clearing defect notice will be for things like a cracked light lens, an obscured number plate or a failed brake light, where all others are working. We now have 28 days to rectify the defects listed in a self-clearing defect notice before being liable for a fine up to $3,000.

Now all we have to work out is who represents the monkey in our story and who is the British soldier? Who is trying to catch out whom? We should leave any idle speculation to others.

Perhaps, the patrols in hostile territory are the teams of NHVR inspectors checking trucks on a roadside in New South Wales? It can get pretty heated out there at night.