The trucking industry, as a whole, is going to have to be very careful about what it says and does in the next couple of months. Now is not the time for petty bickering and in-fighting between the various interest groups. We are one bad accident away from a major crisis for the trucking industry.
The incident on Mona Vale Road in Sydney late last year was a clear indication of just how precarious a position the road transport industry is in. When we paint a picture of a responsible industry policing itself to keep the general public safe, we cannot afford too many such crashes.
In the aftermath, two serious turns for the worse hit trucking. Firstly, one of the most sympathetic Roads Ministers in any state for quite a while, turned on trucking with some vehemence accompanied by threats to punish offenders very harshly. Duncan Gay had been instrumental in breaking through a number of road blocks set up by the old Roads and Traffic Authority to stymie productivity initiatives for truckies. One fireball on the Mona Vale saw a lot of good will thrown out of the window.
The subsequent, and very public, investigations into the operator were also an issue to concentrate antipathy towards trucking in general. Yes, there were some issues with the RMS looking at the worst case scenario and then publicising it to make the operator appear even more negligent than they actually were. However, the results of the investigation were met with a stony silence on the part of the transport industry, nobody was going to be the one to cast the first stone. It was more a case of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.
If this is how close the industry feels to disaster, then we really are one bad accident away from a crisis. An incident with echoes of the Mona Vale crash or the Menangle head-on from early in 2012 is going to start the alarm bells ringing in the road enforcement community all over Australia and give a free hand to irresponsible politicians to kick the truckies for political gain.
Have we learnt nothing from history? The coincidence of two major road tragedies within a short number of weeks back in November/December 1989 brought the whole edifice down on the trucking industry and it was only some astute manoeuvring, coupled with complete unity within the trucking community, which brought the industry through with any dignity at all.
Now is not the time to wait for another disaster before the trucking industry gets itself together and sorts out the wheat from the chaff. There is no room for those in the know to turn a blind eye to issues. If we cannot keep our own house in order someone else will do it for us.
Every stakeholder concerned with the trucking industry is involved and if there is a public perception the trucking industry is irresponsible and unsafe, they will have to act. This is the tightrope on which the trucking industry is now standing. We are not just one bad accident away from a crisis, we are probably just one well researched but very negative TV documentary away from a major crisis.