We Cannot Win

Remain Vigilant

An article in the Herald Sun in Melbourne this week has caused me to despair of ever improving the image of the trucking industry. The well meaning article appeared on the newspaper’s website last Saturday afternoon. It was a well intentioned piece in the wake of the horrific crash involving a Toll tanker on the Calder Freeway last week.


The premise was, spending a day with a very safe and responsible tanker driver, Alex Krizanic, who drives for FBT Transwest in Melbourne. Out on the highway with him, the journalist talks about Alex’s awareness on the road and taking into account others on the road. Being a safe and responsible driver reducing risk in the face of unthinking car drivers


The story works well as a counterpoint to the crash, in which a car veered across the road forcing a tanker to take evasive action, climb the roadside bank and rollover onto the car. The crash was big news on the TV in Melbourne and further disaster was avoided when the fuel in the rolled over tanker did not ignite.


The article, by Patrick Carlyon, mentions the crash, then returns to the story about Alex. He doesn’t use his phone to text while driving. He remains calm when cars around him act irresponsibly and he has to brake avoid hitting them. He listens to Bryce Courtenay audio books.


This leads the writer to the conclusion, this ‘truckie breaks all of the stereotypes’. He is the ‘calmest person on the road’, ‘he neither blasts his horn nor flashes his high beams’. This is all good, up to a point. By talking about Alex, who seems to be a typical type of driver in this sort of application, in this way, the article is suggesting all the other truck drivers are bad tempered irresponsible madmen.


If you were to take all of the stuff written about Alex and run it in an article with the photos included, which show him standing proudly in front of his truck and sitting in the driver’s seat adjusting his mirror, I could take this article as being mainly positive for trucking.


However, this is not how the story is presented. It is laid out in a way to emphasise the exact opposite of the sentiments shown in the story, about this responsible dangerous goods driver. The casual observer would come away with the impression truck drivers are dangerous killers on the highway and responsible for many innocent deaths on our roads.


How do they do it? Simple lay the story out with the most striking images of the worst of the accidents involving trucks, which have occurred over the years. Up front is the image of the Toll tanker on its side, last week. Well, at least that’s topical.


This is followed by an image of the Burnley tunnel crash back in 2007. This saw three people killed and the truck driver jailed for two years and nine months, the caption tells us so.Then another horrific crash image from 2007, the Kerang train crash. Eleven people were killed when a B-double ploughed into a passenger train on an un-gated level crossing.


Then we have a picture showing the space in the concrete wall made by a truck driver plunging off the Bolte Bridge in 2013. The truck fell 20 metres, according to the caption. It doesn’t look good. This is followed by an image of a burnt out wreck. In 2014, a family of four were killed in Catani after a truck ran a stop sign, he was jailed for ten years.


There’s more. A photo of the Toll tanker on its side and covered in foam by a fire crew. The caption tells us ‘One man dead and six others injured when a petrol tanker rolled on the Calder Freeway. Tanker swerved to avoid a car, 60,000 litres of fuel leak into local creek’.


The article finishes off with an image of a crew trying to free the driver of a truck which smashed into a rail bridge in West Melbourne last week. It looks horrific.


We genuinely can’t win. A well-meaning journalist goes out and gets a positive story to add some context to a dangerous incident last week and the media outlet decides to turn the visual look of the story into one which directly contradicts the facts laid out in the text. Thanks mate!