ABC will be showing a Four Corners report on ABC One at 8.30 tonight in which the reporter Stephen Long is said to have found the trucking industry to be, ‘a deadly intersection of corporate greed, government inaction and an industry feeding on itself’.
The pre-publicity is enough to tell us it’s not going to be good news. The issues addressed include asking whether drivers are paid a fair wage, if the big companies are forcing down the rates to increase profit and suggesting this pressure is forcing operators to cut corners, in terms of maintenance.
As is done regularly by reports on the trucking industry, the number of fatalities from accidents involving trucks is related, by Four Corners, directly to issues within trucking. However, the actual statistics show the majority of fatalities in accidents where trucks are involved are found to be not the fault of the truck or its driver.
“What Four Corners discovered talking to those inside the industry will chill anyone using our highways,” says the Four Corners website. “Drivers confess to consistent and significant drug abuse. Another reveals how his company was switching drivers to avoid police and Transport Department checks. One insider tells how a corporate takeover led his company to cut its maintenance schedule to save money and improve its bottom line.”
One of the participants is quoted as saying, “I know for a fact of trucks being driven with very poor repair jobs done on them, they should never have been on the road… mudguards fall off, sets of wheels fall off, brake hubs disappear never to be seen again.”
Four Corners reckon this informant also tells how old equipment was put back on the road to fulfil contracts. In one case, one of those pieces of equipment was involved in a recent fatal road accident.
Some of these issues clearly show one of the main planks of the story for Four Corners will be the operators of the truck involved in the accident in Mona Vale, Sydney last year, in which two people were killed and a petrol tanker burned. The operator, Cootes Transport will probably be used as an example to illustrate issues identified in the Four Corners investigation.
Former Diesel Magazine Editor, Steve Brooks, was interviewed for the program and asked about the reputation of the Cootes organisation in the past when controlled by the original owners. That operation’s reputation, in terms of safety, was second to none. Over the last ten years, the company has changed hands a couple of times, so the accident last year and the RMS investigation which followed, told a different story. We can expect that story to get an airing tonight.
From the point of view of the trucking industry as a whole this is clearly not going to be good news and the reaction to the story over the coming weeks and months is almost certain to have a negative effect on all those working in trucking.