Living in hope

Will the next 25 years raise the esteem of the long-haul truck driver in the eyes of the authorities and public? I’d like to see that. Ken Wilkie writes

Living in hope
Will technology take over?


Three hundred Owner//Driver issues down; how many more to go? For Owner//Driver, bloody heaps I expect. For me, well I won’t see another 300!

Maybe I’m being too negative. After all, many people do achieve a score of 95 years. But where is road transport going? Gambling has never been my forte. Predicting the future I consider to be gambling. At best, I believe an educated guess is the best that can be achieved. And look at the percentage of correct guesses the weather bureau scores and all the science they use to come up with their predictions.

I remember when I was winding down from Nasho, a really good mate took me off to the Albion Park trots in Brisbane. Now Lloyd was and is still not beyond having a flutter. He was pretty professional about it in those early days. By professional I mean he studied form guides and all the technical paraphernalia.

Anyway off to the trots we went. Me? I grew up on a dairy and beef property and my interest in horses was limited to whether the one being saddled would reach around to bite or whether it was likely to duck its head once mounted.

I have to say I had trouble even predicting that much. I think from memory I went to the races with something like 25 bucks in the pocket. There was a trotter called Clermont Boy. My then girlfriend and now wife hails from Clermont, so that copped a bit of a wager. Other runners were selected by guess or the appeal of the name or some such irrational method.

To cut the long story short, I walked out with a little more than I’d gone in with. Lloyd? Well, I considerably outshone his results. I have never tried the horses since, such beautiful animals that they are.

Techno future

Road transport and the future? Do I try guessing or should I stick to expressing hopes and wishes?

Many years ago I was in a discussion with a religious zealot when he asked whether I was believer. I just had to respond that I’m more of a hoper than believer. I am still more of a hoper than believer when it comes to the conditions a truckie will encounter between now and 25 years hence.

I am concerned at the thought that technology will take over from humanity when it comes to controlling heavy vehicles. Where there is a genuine shortage of a commodity; where that commodity can be replaced with a more cost effective tool or process, I can see a pressure to develop and accept something that is more effective.

However, I say to all these smart people who are wanting to get rid of my professional driver colleagues in a desire to improve their own personal lifestyle – have a look into the past. Pretty well every achievement that has bettered our living conditions has been developed via a human brain. Okay, computers might make a process quicker but that bloody computer was developed in the first instance by human brainpower.

In the past our smarts at developing technology has benefited society’s ability to gainfully employ the massive increase in the world population. Can we continue to achieve that situation if we aim to put truck drivers on the scrapheap purely so that the elite can increase their profit margin? I don’t really think that should be the reason to develop such technology.

So we’re not going to spear drivers in the quest for greater profitability. Then why are we wanting to make the truck driver redundant?

A shortage of people coming to the ranks? I have been rabbiting on about the unattractiveness of truck driving as a profession almost since Owner//Driver came into fruition some 25 years ago.

Bobtail breach

I have had considerable communication of late with a friend whose spouse does long-haul work out of Darwin. Around two years ago this truckie was pinged, wrong word, belted with a fine of $640 simply for taking a bobtail prime mover from Rocklea to Wacol. It was a Saturday morning and the truck had been parked at Rocklea for 12 hours having got in the night before.

The driver resides in Darwin. What is so hard about consulting the speedometer of the truck to see how far it had travelled? And in testament to national honesty the breach will be described as a fatigue breach. Also it is just an arrogant copout to claim that ignorance is no excuse under the law. Excuse me?

The magistrate who heard the case was ignorant of the fact that that the "national" heavy vehicle regulation does not apply in the Territory, in other words is not national. Talk about hopes not yet fulfilled.

That is not the first instance of magistrates being ignorant of the real workings of the part-nation only national regulations. I have lost count of instances that I have been made aware of where a magistrate has handed down a decision stating subject concluded and the defendant later being made aware of further penalty. And ladies and gentlemen, that awareness has largely come about by accident.

Decency and honesty is not too evident in the management of this industry – or the nation.

On the dishonest society thing it’s nothing to do with road transport. But I have said in the past that if road transport is fixed up, the whole nation will be on the right road.

Vulgar voters

Queensland has just conducted its state elections. In line with my call for truckies to get closer to their respective politicians, I became heavily involved with working with my chosen candidate. Chosen by me, not necessarily by the majority of voters.

I admit to having being disappointed by several aspects leading up to polling day but I also had the experience of doing a little scrutineering after polling. In this election, we were required to show preferences right down the line – number all the boxes. There was some criticism of this requirement and I have a sympathy for that criticism. However, my observations of the cause of many informal votes cast was not the error in marking but an absolute distaste for the process of voting.

Two or three cards had penises drawn on them, several had foul language written over the face and many more were not numbered at all. Others all squares with zeros or all squares with crosses and even other variations demonstrating a disdain for the process. But those objecting to the complexity of marking all preferences are blaming that for the higher than usual number of informal. Do these claimants even look to know what they are talking about?

Do those who express concern for the inability of this industry to attract "good" drivers ever take the time to look at the conditions they condone for truckies? Or is it just that they don’t care?

How about a driver being inspected seven times on a run from Sydney to Brisbane? The industry is hounded over maintenance aspects. How much tragedy and drama is caused by that when compared to driver incompetence – and not just truck driver incompetence?

The smart people running this society would all have us believe that education is paramount to their success. Then they point blank refuse to acknowledge a need for education when situations need instant and correct reaction. It is not possible to have time to take a considered approach when driving, to put one’s finger to lips and peruse the condition at hand.

The next 25 years will see a return to national honesty. At the end of the next 25 year period, regulations applying to all forms of road transport will reflect the results of unbiased and detailed study into heavy vehicle accidents.

The return to honesty will see the complete nation regulated by one national set of parameters that respect and recognise the greatness and efficiency of the long haul truckie. Breaches will be reported for what they are instead of using inflated dramatic language to justify the existence of roadside bullying and put down.

Yes, I am still a hoper. Believing will only come when I see a return to honesty.

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