There is no other way to describe as we watch, yet again, trucking slammed in the media following some high profile accidents and a NSW crackdown. Diesel News takes a look at the kind of language being used across the media and searches for a chink of light, some positivity.
It’s probably the headlines which do the most damage. Many people will simply skim the news and their takeaway is based upon the inflammatory language used.
Here are a few examples:
“Govt lashed over ‘cowboy’ truck operators.” From The Australian on February 2 written by Dominica Sanda at Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“ ‘Disgrace’: 2,000 trucks receive defect notices in police crackdown” The Guardian on February 2 in a story written by Christopher Knaus
“Crackdown on truckies: Australia’s largest ever operation” This just happens to come from the Daily Mercury on February 1, but it is part of the APN group, so this news will have been syndicated across regional Queensland and Northern NSW.
All of this negativity came out in the first couple of days of the crackdown. However, we can sometimes rely on the ABC to give some balance to the coverage:
“Here’s what could be done to reduce deadly truck crashes.” Comes from ABC News on February 5 in a story around the 7.30 Report piece by Julia Holman. Actually picking up on the agenda advanced by the trucking industry in past few weeks.
As is often the case in the general media the Transport Workers Union and its well oiled PR team get their spin on the story first up:
In The Guardian story we get:
“The Transport Workers Union said they were further evidence the federal road safety watchdog should not have been abolished. The union is also concerned that drivers are being place under immense pressure to work longer hours, speed, and skip breaks.
National secretary Tony Sheldon said drivers were being made to carry the burden for “an industry in crisis”.
“They’ve yet again copped the fines and carried the charges,” he said. “But wealthy retailers and manufacturers at the top are the ones who should be in the dock: their low-cost contracts are putting financial pressure on transport companies and drivers which causes maintenance on trucks to get delayed.”
A similar line gets repeated in The Australian, note the use of ‘cowboy and ratbag’:
“Truckies have been issued more than 2000 defect notices during a 24-hour crackdown on “cowboy and ratbag” operators across NSW, with unions arguing the prime minister is partly to blame.”
“More than 5000 trucks were checked in the blitz with more than 2000 defect notices issued and 26 drivers testing positive for drugs.”
Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy says the volume of infringements “shows there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure trucks are safe on our roads”.
It was “a disgrace” that so many drivers also tested positive for drugs, he said in a statement on Friday.
Mr Corboy said NSW Police and Roads and Maritime Services would be following up with drivers, operators and companies who think themselves “above the law”.
The Transport Workers Union is calling on the federal government to reinstate the road safety tribunal introduced by the Gillard government in 2012 and scrapped by the Turnbull government in 2016.
“Kids wouldn’t be orphaned if Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash kept in place the tribunal that could have stopped these fatalities … they have literally got blood on their hands,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon told reporters in Sydney.”
The chink of light came from the ABC story with Holman getting possible solutions from Rod Hannifey as ‘The Truckie’, Michael Byrne as ‘The Industry Leader’ and Professor Ann Williamson as ‘The Expert’:
“Mr Hannifey believes the best way to reduce the number of crashes involving trucks is to educate other drivers to be more aware around trucks.”
“Authorities admit that most of the accidents involving trucks are the fault of the other driver.
“In the majority of accidents involving a truck, it’s actually the other driver who is at fault,” Roger Weeks from the NSW Roads and Maritime Services told 7.30.
Mr Hannifey said poor-quality highways and a lack of rest areas makes it harder for truckies to manage their fatigue.
“Not one of our major highways complies with the minimum number of rest areas,” he said.”
“The head of Australia’s largest transport company, Toll Group, says there needs to be an urgent harmonisation of the laws administering heavy vehicles.
Managing director Michael Byrne points to inconsistencies in different states with speed limits, fatigue laws and blood alcohol levels.”
The ABC article concludes with this:
“The evidence is really quite strong that there is a link between how you pay people and how they behave in the workplace,” Professor Williamson told 7.30.
“It probably will mean that freight is going to cost us a little bit more, but I think it’s wrong that the transport industry, and long-distance truck drivers in particular are really bearing the brunt.”
However, truckies fear that reduced hours would result in less pay and more time away from home.
“We’d all love to work eight hours and go home, but if I only work eight hours instead of 12 today, in three days’ time I’m another day behind,” driver Mr Hannifey said.
“What do I do for the other 16 hours sitting in a truck with no toilets and no shade and no food and nothing else?”