Unpalatable Reforms Will Return to the Agenda

unpalatable reforms will return to the agenda

So the reduced hours for truck drivers has been put back in the box for now, but you can be sure that unpalatable reforms will return to the agenda, in the years to come, for the trucking industry.

The trouble with working in the transport industry for so long is that your realise there is nothing new in the world, just a series of cycles repeating themselves. New ideas come along, which look very much like ones you have seen before.

The different perspective of the bureaucrat sitting in an office somewhere and examining the way the trucking industry works will often be the polar opposite of the perspective of the trucking operator or driver hammering away at the coal face, getting freight from A to B.

The type of changes suggested recently by the National Transport Commission and recommended by the fatigue scientists looks very similar to the suggestions put forward in the early 2000s when a review of fatigue regulations took place. 

Over the previous decade, experiments with various fatigue management schemes, led by Queensland, had taken place which had examined how much flexibility in driving hours was practical.

As that process played out, we ended up with the various fatigue management schemes we have now, SFM, BFM and AFM. These have worked to a certain extent, but the slow take-up of the Advanced Fatigue Management has meant very little has changed for most people.

Negotiations around the new Heavy Vehicle National Law look like they will play out in a very similar way to that which took place 20 years ago. We seem destined to keep going in circles as the two opposite perspectives argue out the issues.

A similar process will continue with road charging. There is no doubt that the current way of calculating road charges for the trucking industry is a farce and throws up expensive anomalies every time it’s calculated.

However, whenever the problem comes up and it is decided changes are needed, the bureaucrats come up with their mass/distance/location charging plans. I have seen this issue examined as ‘the solution’ a couple of times, and every time the study takes place, those working in the bowels of government offices find out that the reality is way too complex for their simple solution.

Undeterred by these issues, the next time a Minister in the transport arena asks why the current system is such a dog’s breakfast, a study will recommence into the mass/distance/location charging scheme we are going to get.

Two or three years later, the complications caused by the fact that the states don’t even know what road assets are in their state, or who or what uses those roads, dawns on the poor bureaucrat tasked with sorting this issue out.

This is accompanied by pushback from the trucking industry, which sees some of the profitable sectors of the industry will get hit harder than others, as any scheme will be just as poorly calculated as the current iteration already is.

The trucking industry just needs to hold on and wait for the next round of studies and reforms and be aware that another bunch of unpalatable reforms will return to the agenda.

unpalatable reforms will return to the agenda