Take on the Status Quo

There seems to be a shortage of those willing to take on the status quo within the system and take it forward, reckons long-time campaigner, David Coonan. His time at the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) saw him battling the legislators and bureaucrats, toe to toe, on a daily basis.

He rails against bureaucrats knowing what is right, but not willing to put their head above the parapet. He points to Bob Pearson, the first winner of the ATA Technical Achievement Award, as an example of someone willing to take on the task of explaining why a new bigger combination should be used.


Bob came from a public service background to drive the development of the B-double, because he knew it to be the right thing to do, reckons Dave.


“There’s an easy way forward, there’s a difficult way forward and there’s the right way forward,” says Dave. “It can be really hard to take the right way forward.


“In the safety arena, there should be better combinations coming out, there should be better drivers coming in and the regulators should be saying this is good for everybody. It shouldn’t be just about the industry having to do more for less.”


According to Dave, performance-based standards (PBS) failed when the road system wasn’t classified as it was supposed to be. As far as he is concerned, the road agencies should not be talking about what the vehicle looks like. They should be telling us what the road is capable of and laying out the parameters. Then the vehicle designers can build a vehicle to fit those parameters.


“Road agencies shouldn’t care whether it’s a B-double, or something else,” says Dave. “If it meets the B-double performance criteria it should be OK. If it looks like something different, as long as those specifications are adequate to guard safety and infrastructure, it should be allowed to run. It might mean it’s got more axles or is a different configuration.”


Dave’s frustration with the development of PBS, after the initial prospects at the time of its conception, were so high is palpable. “PBS got off track and we couldn’t work out how to get it back on track,” he says.


Doing the Right Thing


According to Dave the vast majority of the trucking industry operates within the law, despite the law.


“The trucking industry is a hard industry to be in, but there a lot of people who do the right thing and do it very well,” says Dave. “There’s a lot of good inspectors and there’s a lot of good truck drivers. A few of the bad ones cause the issues. The vast majority of truck drivers want to come home at night, to behave themselves and operators want to run good businesses.


“Look at the work diary, do you think the average person could sit down and fill out something like it for their life, and not get a $600 fine? The last set of reforms of driving hours were bad for drivers because they took away flexibility. The nana nap is very difficult to have now, but it saves a lot of lives.


“The seven-hour break routine is fine for six hours’ sleep, if you can sleep where you feed. Instead, we make them drive out of town. I think some of the rules are cruel. I wonder how many of those working on the work diary in the regulator space have ever sat down and had to fill one out around doing their job.”


The early retirement of David Coonan has left a vacancy in the trucking industry for someone willing to show their passion in no uncertain terms, wear their heart on their sleeve and remain determined to stand their ground. Good luck for the future Dave!