The authorities in New South Wales are always going to be an issue for the trucking industry. The stats tell us 70 odd per cent of the road freight moved in Australia passes through NSW at some point in its journey. To the Roads and Maritime Services and the NSW Police Traffic & Highway Patrol, this means they reckon they have responsibility to keep the road transport industry on the straight and narrow.
In the last week the RMS and NSW Police executed one of their hard hitting raids. This time on a distribution centre in Huntingwood, in Eastern Sydney. Looking at the news the authorities released to the press demonstrates just what value the RMS think this kind of operation achieves. It’s all about the numbers.
The headline on the statement was all about how many tickets the zealous RMS enforcement officers handed out to the unsuspecting and trapped truckies. The RMS inspected 111 trucks and trailers and issued 22 defect notices. How severe these defects were is hard to tell, but by just using the word ‘defects’ without further explanation suggests most of them, if not all, were minor. Why let that get in the way of a good story? The story is, of course, for the general public’s consumption, and it’s all about how the RMS and NSW Police are coming down hard on these terrible law breaking truckies, yet again!
23 more tickets were given out to truck drivers who were found to have breached load restraint rules, either on their way in or out of the DC. If you are an inspector and you want to knock off a few truck drivers, load restraint is the easy route. The load restraint rules are not particularly clear and to get restraint right every time requires a belt and braces approach, try as many ways as possible to meet the rules. The statement implies gross negligence on the part of truck drivers.
In practice, the loads are secured, most of the time, in a way to ensure they don’t move and a cursory look from an inspector would see a secure load. Drivers do have experience and they definitely don’t want the load to move, so they are incentivised to make sure its secure. They are also under time constraints all of the time, so making the load secure is a priority, making it compliant to complex rules is less so, it’s human nature.
This doesn’t stop the spin from the RMS. These drivers are endangering the general public by using ‘broken gates, and significant amounts of goods not strapped down and only held in by side curtains’, according to the statement.
“Unsecured loads are not only a risk to other road users, those unloading the goods at Distribution Centres are also placed at risk,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith Commander of the Traffic & Highway Patrol Command said, in the press statement. “When inspecting one of the loads, a gate gave way which struck one officer and nearly hit others, which is a prime example of why loads need to be properly secured.”
The item inserted near the end of the statement is bound to get lost in the rush to bag truckies. There were 149 random breath tests and 38 drug tests carried out during the raid. All of them proved to be negative. This doesn’t fit with the image of the demon truck driver, so it was probably jettisoned by any journalist covering the story.
This is not the end of the story. RMS are promising to continue with the raids though to the end of June, so trucking operators can’t say they weren’t warned. We can also be sure the press and TV stations will also be well informed throughout ‘Operation Austrans’, showing how the NSW public can sleep safe in their beds because the RMS are getting tough with the demon truckie.
Last week, Diesel News reported on improved relations between truck drivers and RMS inspectors at Marulan. Now, because the spin suits them, it’s time to demonise the truckie, get a bit of political capital out of it, make the agency and minister look good.
Where’s the inclusive attitude? Where are the liaison officers going round the DCs chatting to drivers and explaining the rules and showing the industry how to remain compliant? Why are these raids targeting the trucks in the DC, but not the system and practice of the DC operator? The answer lies within the culture of the road authorities at the coal face. While Peter Wells, Director of Safety and Compliance, does talk the talk and engage thoughtfully with the industry, the teams on the ground are still in the business of pinging truckies.