I have been looking back at some of the opinion pieces I have written over the years and reckon the phrase, ‘taking the rough with the smooth’ is quite relevant to many of the topics raised. Nobody ever went into the trucking industry for an easy ride.
It is clear from the outset it is going have its ups and its downs. Luckily, there are enough of us who get a lot out of the ups to keep us carrying on, enabling us to cope with the downs. It is pretty much the same for the industry, as a whole, when we are dealing with the powers that be.
Sometimes we have to live with a situation that is far from ideal to get the industry to a place that is better, overall, for most in the industry. There are compromises to be made, some of which may be hard to swallow, in order to get to the higher ground of a better working environment for the industry.
We should remind ourselves about the situation less than twenty years ago when it comes to the way the industry was regulated. Running a B-double interstate could get you into all sorts of trouble. Getting pulled over and having the overall length measured was a lottery. It all depended on where you measured it and which state you were in. If the inspector was in a bad mood, you were over 25 metres long. If they were feeling okay, it would just scrape in under the 25.
This wasn’t the worst issue but it does illustrate what was going on. Roadside checks were a lottery. Even the most stringent fleet, checking everything on a regular basis and trying to ensure all the correct bits of paperwork were in the cabin, would get caught out on a regular basis.
This situation was galling and even the best were constantly frustrated by the intricacies of the differences between the rules in each state. The situation acted as a disincentive to operators to do the right thing. If you were going to get pinged anyway, why beat yourself up about it.
The invention of the idea of a national regulator back in the mists of time made the possibility of some kind of alignment of regulations on a state-to-state basis look attainable, up to a point.
I can remember being asked what I thought about the whole idea, at a time when some very ambitious claims were being made about what the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) could do and what it would achieve. My answer at the time was the same answer I would give now, “I don’t believe it will solve all of the problems, but whatever it does, the situation is going to be a bloody sight better than it is now.”
Yes, the NHVR is slow in getting some things done and intransigent in areas we would like them to be flexible. We would also like to see them bang the heads together of the state authorities who create a lot of the issues, something they can’t do officially. However, all in all, we have to look at the situation and realise it’s one hell of a lot better than it was just a few years ago.