Playing Politics with Safety

Are we playing politics with safety and really taking the whole issue of safety in the trucking industry seriously enough? This is an important question for everyone involved in road transport, not just for those out there spruiking their own agendas.


This week has seen the inelegant game of blame being handed around between the stakeholders involved, but the argument has advanced the safety of those involved in the industry not one jot. Bickering about who did what and when is not helpful and is getting us nowhere.


The game has changed now we are out of the post election period and know the Turnbull government is back in and will govern with the slimmest of margins. How this situation will help or hinder the cause of safety in the trucking industry is, as yet unclear, we need to wait and see who is who in the ministries and who are the real power brokers in a complicated Senate.


We can be sure of one thing, trucking industry matters will not be a priority for anyone involved and any real change or developments are likely to be minor and slow moving. This is probably a good thing, we could do with a bit of steady-as-she-goes for the next few months. It would give the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator time to make some real progress with its agenda.


All roads seem to be leading us to July 1 2018 as the date when the fruition of some major projects occur. National registration, a proper roadworthiness situation and further integration of state functions are all going to make the picture clearer and the possibility of better behaviour on safer roads more achievable.


Of course, there is not going to be calm waters for these reforms to steer through. We have already seen the lie of the land in the past week or two. With the Coalition back in power, the Transport Workers Union can be certain the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is not going to be revived anytime soon.


The union’s contribution to the safety in trucking debate was a spray against the Australian Trucking Association and NatRoad, accusing them of hypocrisy over the proposal by the National Transport Commission to ground any truck exceeding the legal speed limit by 15 km/h or more.


The argument was not particularly well thought out, but gave the TWU an opportunity for the Union to assert the associations and their members did not care about the safety of truck drivers, or the general public. It was also a chance to tell us, the only way to improve safety on the roads for all is to reintroduce the RSRT.


The ATA felt the need to rebut the assertions made by the TWU and lay out exactly what had been in its submission to the NTC, in response to the discussion paper talking about grounding speeding trucks. Denying it was setting up a smokescreen to hide unsafe practices and detailing the exact nature of its submission was the ATA’s answer.


The whole discussion led us precisely nowhere. The original TWU accusation was flawed and inaccurate, by seeing the need to make some form of rebuttal, the ATA did not take the debate anywhere useful either.


I can remember travelling long distances with two young children in the back of my car. The saga of he said she said would go on for way too long and any attempt to calm the temper and return the journey to peace was impossible from the driver’s seat.


However, after a period of relative calm, the kids ran out of energy for the fight and found a way to get along. If things went well the situation would de-escalate to the point where I had two happy laughing children in the rear seat and could relax and get on with the job of making it from A to B.


What’s the chances of cutting out the squabbling, talking to each other and getting on just well enough to progress the job of making the trucking industry a safer and more productive industry to work in?