Industry News

Someone needs the guts to speak out about this

I am writing with my full support of Nicholas Hales’ letter to you that was published in your last issue [cover date, May 10].

I have forwarded an email to you that I sent to an industry representative in August last year [see edited extract below] voicing my concerns with safety issues running east-west interstate.

I am 54 and have more than 28 years of transport experience. I have run ‘The Paddock’ for a long time, mainly solo driving, and back in the early 1990s when everyone, and regulations, were still a bit loose, when it was mainly single trailer work east-west and evolved into the B-double and road train era. We were probably the last of ‘old school’ era, the last of that generation that was taught the ‘old school’ ways.

The trucks were quick, some real quick. The unwritten industry rule of thumb was Perth – Melbourne solo – 36 hours; Perth – Sydney – 44/46 hours solo driving.

If you couldn’t consistently do these times, you probably wouldn’t have had a job on wages driving interstate unless you were an owner/driver.

The camaraderie on the road was second-to-none. Many of my closest friends today are from being on the road in that era. There seem to be less accidents; we never had to worry about who was coming at us, or if they were over the centre line.

It was common courtesy to move to the left fog line for an oncoming truck and it was always returned, even if we were sitting on a ‘dollar-thirty’.

As unregulated as those times were, and a lot of things not by the book, there was an etiquette that you followed on the road that bred mutual respect.

Drivers got taught how to restrain loads properly by the old boys that had done it for years. We are all particular about knots, neatness, tucking buckles up, and who had the best tarp job. It was almost like a competition, there’s no way any decent operator would be seen down the road with loose ballooning curtains, or tarps looking like parachutes!

You just don’t wake up one day with this knowledge. It’s gained only by hands-on experience and taught by those that have the experience.

Email from August, 2023:

I want to make one thing extremely clear and it’s the opinion of ALL decent, respectful, responsible heavy vehicle drivers and operators here in the west: this IS NOT a race issue – it’s a SAFETY ONLY issue.

Every time the issue around a certain cohort of overseas drivers is raised and the lack of experience they have, especially driving multi-combinations, someone pulls the race card.

But it’s going to end in tears unless someone in prominence in transport has the guts to speak out and to somehow find a resolution.

This is purely about if you’re experienced enough to safely and competently operate multi-combination heavy vehicles on our city roads and highways Australia-wide with other day-to-day road users so we can ALL return home safely to our families and loved ones.

We are having two or more rollovers a week here in the west and there have been weeks of more than two. 

These rollovers, side swipes, head-ons and running off the road just don’t happen on rural WA roads, these are a common occurrence on Tonkin and Roe Highways in Perth city.

Grain haulage within WA is the biggest issue currently with grain trucks accounting for the majority of rollovers.

One of our major grain haulage contractors have lost 11 combinations this year alone.

There is also an attitude issue that’s nearly at boiling point out on the highways where experienced drivers are getting abused over the UHF and returning it.

In just about every transport yard I’ve been in over here that has overseas MC drivers doing pick-ups or deliveries they can’t reverse a B-double or back a trailer and dolly.

If you are an MC driver this is a skill that is part of your job and part of the reason we hold an MC license to start with.

The Northam and Wubin road-train assembly areas are an absolute comedy show on Tuesday and Friday night and it doesn’t take long before tempers are frayed, and the facilities end up gridlocked. 

Along with the lack of experience there is a massive lack of common-sense or common courtesy with trailers getting backed into, trailers dropped on the ground, A-frames constantly being bent, and tearing around like they are in a race car, high beams and spotlights up.

It is well known the industry is short of drivers and the big companies are desperate to put bums in seats, but surely not at the expense of others’ lives and safety?

How can this issue be publicly raised in a diplomatic way and resolved in a timely manner?

I consider this to be one of THE biggest issues currently facing the transport industry today. 


The post Someone needs the guts to speak out about this appeared first on Big Rigs.

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