If anyone asks someone working in the trucking industry what kind of problems they have, or what solutions are required, they are asking for trouble. There will not be a concise and succinct answer. Instead, there will be a list, a very long list, of grievous problems, both real and imagined.
The list can be divided into two sections, perennial problems and new ones, which have only popped their heads above the parapet in the last few years. Both sections seem to be getting longer, at the same time as the legislation dealing with the industry is supposed to be more streamlined and efficient.
Top of the list for many is one of the longest lingering issues, inconsistency between the states. The introduction of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator was supposed make this go away. Instead, the new regulator seems to have stimulated the most recalcitrant states, namely New South Wales and Western Australia, with able support from South Australia, to come up with even trickier ways of making life difficult for the trucking operator who dares to send their truck over a state border.
Next up, we have log books (sorry work diaries!) and fatigue. No amount of reviews or new schemes has made the management of fatigue any easier. The sheer complexity of the rules mean any operator wanting to wring the most they can out of a truck is constantly running the risk of getting expensively pinged for a perceived infringement at a road side check. The weekly NHVR Update regularly has another refining and re-explaining of the rules to try and allay fears and avoid confusion.
Rego is one of those discussions which seems to be forever circular. Go back and read the trucking magazines in the seventies and eighties and the topic of rego rises is brought up by disgruntled truckies in the lead up to events like the blockade on Razorback, and at Yass ten years later. Government is always trying to squeeze just a little bit more out of the truck owner without committing to improved roads.
Of course, the price of fuel issue will never go away. The big oil companies are never going to become charitable institutions and the tyranny of distance means the price of diesel will change every few kilometres. However, this is one of those issues onto which some light has been thrown. The crazy escalation in price which occurred after the GFC did bring into being the concept of the fuel price levy on freight rates, to ease the pain.
Leafing through those old mags will also highlight another hardy perennial, the freight rate. In the seventies and eighties, the rates for loads between the state capitals was published and created concerns, at the time, about the figure’s veracity. Perhaps it’s not such a good idea to look back at those rates, because many will notice they have barely changed since those times. If rates are stable, then the time taken to pay invoices starts to extend, as it has in recent years.
One of the new kids on the block, only with us for twelve years, is the chain of responsibility. Presented to the trucking industry as a solution to many of the above issues. It has been a boon, to the big corporations’ legal and compliance departments, as well as for a plethora of consultants of every kind. Covering ones backside has become an industry segment of its own.
Electronic monitoring is also a recent promised panacea, which is starting to look a little less attractive when the reality of its use starts to sink in. The government loves it because it makes enforcement possible from a desktop computer in the road authority offices. The subject of electronic work diaries is one of those, which is going to run and run The possibility of mass/distance/location road charging is also very attractive to bureaucrats, who love having a bit of extra cash to spend.
Did I mention permits?
Stressed? If you weren’t stressed when you started reading this page, you will be now.
Like any list, the only thing to do is tick off one thing at a time. Now, where shall we start?