There is no getting around it, and there is little the leaders in our industry can do to get past the cultural divide in trucking that has dogged attempts by the industry to clean up its act.
There are the full spectrum of cultures in trucking in Australia, all the way from the super-safe working environments where everyone obeys the rules and does the right thing, to the rogue operator running the back roads at night with the speed limiter disabled and the lights turned off going through the Safe-T-Cam.
A lot of the talk about improving behaviour and systems in the trucking industry is preaching to the converted most of the time. Those who understand the importance of safety are already listening and those who don’t care are not.
The trouble is no-one knows what’s going on on the other side of the divide. Smart operators who are involved in initiatives like Trucksafe have very little contact with those who remain outside of the law. Those dodgy runners seem to live in their own little world, but can still find customers willing to go for a cheaper price and not care about quality of service, reputation of the chain of responsibility.
That said the actual reality is not a massive chasm, but more of a gradual blurring of the lines from the safest to the most dangerous. Luckily for us, the vast majority of trucking operators will try their best to do the right thing and stay on the right side of that line. On the other side of the coin, in the darker reaches of the industry there are a few who positively revel in the lifestyle on the far side.
There is no quick fix which is going to change the nature of the industry overnight. There will always be the cowboys, who live in a very different world and are very unlikely to read this column.
The task for responsible operators is to further isolate these outliers. By making the rest of the industry a more safety conscious and, by the way, more productive. Then the distance between the vast majority and the errant minority will become clearer.
It is when the cultural divide becomes more of a chasm that we will be able to identify those not doing the right thing as a way of doing business, and drive them further away from the trucking industry as a whole.