Cool under pressure

By: Ken Wilkie

Keeping cool in the summer is mandatory, even when confronted by professional nit-pickers

Cool under pressure
Summer project: refurbishing a 2004 Kenworth K104


Another silly season behind me. These days they seem to click over like the 10ths section of a speedometer at 100km/h. Me? I had a pretty good time really, a bit of socialising and a fair amount of work on my project truck – a 2004 Kenworth K104. Ever since I sold my last one I've wanted another.

The truck was originally purchased new by Pickerings of Mildura. It’s a good spec; a 14 litre Detroit 2100 series, 18-speed Eaton, 46,000 pound Eaton diffs and a 6.5 tonne front axle. The thing has done over 1.7 million kilometres and it’s now sporting a pair of Narva Ultima driving lights.

An issue with doing mechanical work during a time like Christmas and New Year is finding businesses open to supply parts and bits and pieces. I’m talking of the designated work days during the period. I cannot mention company names but two in particular were eye openers. One because they stayed open on every work day, admittedly with a skeleton staff. The other did not open for an extended period and did not even have the courtesy to have an advisory note on their gates to let customers know what arrangements were in place. The word service comes to mind.

Over the years I’ve often heard the service-orientated organisation criticised for being expensive. Well folks, ya gets what ya pay for and they get my vote.

I was having a discussion with an old crony at some time over the period. This comment was repeated to me (I think I have it right) that if you put salt on a bees nest, you’ll get stung. But if you put sugar on a bees nest, one will get honey. Interesting! I was told it came from a bureaucrat.

Are we being told that bureaucracy will burr up if criticised? Naturally, should one be rude and derogatory and disrespectful towards another then it is not unreasonable for the second person to get their back up. However, there comes a point when those wanting reasonable change can become frustrated by the sluggish, even lethargic, progress towards improvement on what needs to be done.

I am not wanting change for the sake of change. This road transport industry has consistently demonstrated that it cannot attract sufficient new players. Part of the reason is the physical nature of the job. Long periods away from family, a sedentary position for the total period of work with attending health consequences and then there is the low esteem in which the occupation is held. On top of all that, there are regulations drawn up that fail to address real issues. While it is an admirable trait to be able to let all the crap wash over one like water off a duck’s back, there comes a time.


Pedantic measuring

A friend of mine was breached some time just prior to Christmas for being over size. In one sense he brought the issue on himself. He transports intermediate bulk containers (IBC) of dangerous goods. You know the shape of those things that are designed to fit neatly into an international shipping container. I’ve frequently done it the same way myself in the good old days.

If one puts them along the trailer, one ends up with gap between the base of the IBC and the coaming of the trailer. The product is heavy and with a wet floor and cornering, they can move sideways even with restraint straps. Put the things across the trailer and the bases are a neat tight fit but one has to reverse the gates to get the benefit of having the gate pegs inside the gate pockets for really good load restraint.

Both systems utilise load restraint straps. One of the ‘people’ manning this particular site took objection to my mate reversing the gates some time ago. Mate, let it go through to the keeper. On this occasion out came the measure stick and bugger and bugger again. The thing is oversize – a whole 2mm over.

Business people are whinging that they cannot get drivers into the industry. While it was load restraint that was the issue, had it been drought relief, then the operator could have utilised a further 83mm for product. Drought relief that goes a bit wide won’t hurt up to 85mm but other stuff will.

In case you think my driver mate lost his cool, as I probably would have done, you’re wrong. This bloke is a true professional. In addition he appreciates that as a truckie he is in a no-win situation and any salt on the beehive will only make matters worse. So he is definitely keeps his cool irrespective of the degree of stupidity.


Damaged number plates

From all accounts, the Queensland Trucking Association has been able to bring just a little sanity into the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) damaged number plate saga. But it’s a bit like a sieve with that mob. Restrict one bit of insanity and it pokes its ugly head out of another hole.

I don’t know the full details yet, but the RMS in its crackdown on a less than ideal service from the tow truck industry has thrown out an indiscriminate long line and is unashamedly catching the good with the bad. At least I hope there are some bad being hauled in.

I am told by a very responsible and reputable heavy vehicle dismantler that anyone transporting damaged vehicles in or through NSW is required to have a tow truck licence. The said licence is required to be renewed every three months at the rate of $1000 each throw, I’m told. I’m awaiting further info on this and when available I’ll pass it on.


Bottom of the pile

From an owner-driver’s perspective I fail to see the justification in the almost panic station reaction to chain of responsibility legislation. Even for employers, now they have to be proven to have failed to meet a standard, instead of in the past being accused of being guilty and being required to prove one’s innocence. It can’t be all bad.

The driver has always been at the bottom of the pile and still will be. Chain of responsibility is designed to take undue and/or illegal pressure from drivers, be they employed or self-employed. In past times that persuasion to ignore regulation was far too often real. That to me is a real plus.

Since staying awake all night from a human point of view is not natural, maybe there could be chain of responsibility consideration directed at those who schedule overnight deliveries with little to no flexibility outside legislated parameters.

In its own interests, while management is scrambling to put self-protection policies in place, it might as well be employed in demanding regulation to be based on facts rather than stemming from a negative attitude towards truckies and a presumption of what’s safe or otherwise.

So much of the current business push is derived from a self-centred desire for personal gain rather than working for the betterment of the total industry welfare.

My required reading for the month: An Awkward Truth by Peter Grose.

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