I have been in the trucking industry for quite a long time and I am getting used to watching the industry, its representatives and those who control our destiny repeating the same mistakes which didn’t work last time or the time before.
Having been around for a long enough period to see longer term patterns emerge can be an advantage and a disadvantage, at the same time. It’s not quite like Groundhog Day, but it seems to be a very similar process to the one Bill Murray went though when he realised he was trapped to repeat the same day forever in the small town of Punxsutawney in rural Pennsylvania.
The way he eventually broke out the never ending cycle was when he realised he could have an effect on the events of each day, by learning from what happened and then gradually coming up with a solution of sorts by modifying behaviour, one small step at a time.
The process of improving the lot of the trucking operation in Australia is a very similar strategy. We are presented with a problem, we try and fix it, but all of the other factors which influence the situation seem to work against the planned goal.
As a result an improvement in safety, or productivity, or conditions, or the environment which is predicted to happen, happens in a very small way and is in no way as effective or liberating as it appeared in the first instance.
There are plenty of examples out there of this kind of thing, as we are continually repeating the same mistakes. We only have to look back at the development of Performance Based Standards. These were going to be the great leap forward which would allow the trucking industry to break free of the chains which were shackling it to the prescriptive vehicle design rules from the past.
There was nirvana on the horizon, where innovative trucks and weird combinations would be developed, and these would revolutionise the way trucking was to do its business. The rules, as they had been developed, had the potential to enable a new way of moving freight around the country.
There was not much wrong with the rules, but there was something wrong with the process, and most of these have come from different levels of government, at different times. These authorities were fighting a different war. Their enemy was not the truckie, it was the federal government or the bureaucrats in the National Transport Commission.
Unfortunately, the different levels in our system allowed stakeholders to apply the brakes at every stage of the process without stopping it in its tracks.
In order for a truly national system like PBS to work we need unified laws to govern the industry. We are slowly getting there, but we are still waiting.
All of the roads in the country need to be analysed and classified to enable the PBS system to allocate particular classes of new designs to get access to a road network which can handle them. Good luck waiting for that to happen, the road owners know very little about their assets and are not incentivised or funded to do the work.
At the moment it feels we are about halfway through the movie with Bill Murray and we need to come up with some smart strategies to get some real improvements over the line. There are plenty of PBS trucks out there, but there could be so many more, if we didn’t keep on repeating the same mistakes.