Attending the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association Conference recently a microcosm of the issues which plague the trucking industry played out on the conference floor, begging the question, how many elephants are there in the room?
Every time the trucking industry wants to make an improvement in productivity, it also has to include assurances and guarantees that, not only will safety not be compromised, but that safety outcomes will be improved.
Invariably, all of the changes and reforms which have flowed through have delivered on both the productivity and safety front. B-triples, A-doubles, and other PBS combinations, as well as on-board mass, IAP, RIM etc. have all brought us a return in productivity and also a leap forward in safety around trucks.
However, every time these discussions are had the process of getting the idea put forward in the first place is followed by a long and circuitous process whereby each layer of government has to have its six penny worth of opinion catered for.
Threats are made, the truth is manipulated and a lot of it goes on behind closed doors, with the end-user, the truckie, left in the dark and only told what they are deemed to know by the authorities.
The discussion in Wagga Wagga was about farm gate access and the initiative of Transport for NSW to break from tradition and come up with a practical solution to those very difficult last mile issues, where once or twice a year, a large truck may have to use a piece of road not specifically designed to take that kind GCM.
The trucks do use these roads anyway, if they have to, but it’s all ‘out of sight out of mind’. So, the solution is to allow limited use in some jurisdictions.
After a reasonable back and forth between the representatives of the truckies and then the NSW Government, a road engineer from one of the local government areas which had decided to reject the scheme took the floor.
This was a window into the world of darkened rooms in government buildings where these disputes are played out normally, behind closed doors.
This engineer laid into both the trucking operators and the NSW Government, mentioning the possibility of them ending up on the witness stand in the coroner’s court. He didn’t seem like he was holding anything back and was quite happy to speak his mind in a room which was almost unanimously hostile to his point of view.
No fighting broke out and it was all brought to a close in a civilised manner. However, it did bring to mind that if this fellow was willing to stick his neck out in public like this, there must be many more willing to get stuck in with the same attitude in the meeting rooms of government. Hence the question, how many elephants are there in the room?