Can we all agree we need a major shake-up!

I openly said before the election Labor had the best policy for transport and the best person for the massive task ahead. I said again post-election I was optimistic that Labor had a man in Glenn Sterle with industry credibility and runs on the board who should get the nod. 

Now two politicians most of us in trucking couldn’t pick out of a line-up have been appointed to the transport portfolio. 

Many of us will see that as a slap in the face. Senator Sterle must be absolutely gutted. I jokingly called him the minister for busted toilets and potholes.  I can’t think of anyone in parliament who has his regard for truckies and a willingness to act. Actions speak louder than words. I find it extremely disappointing that he’s been overlooked. 

My hope now is Minister Catherine King and her deputy Carol Brown don’t turn out to be cardboard cut-outs. That they at least have the common sense to put Sterle to work. The work is still there to be done and to be successful it needs to be done properly.

Let’s hope the transport ministers have the sense to call on the expertise of Senator Glenn Sterle.

Glenn had committed to an improved version of something akin to the old RSRT and creation of a representative body from industry that includes owner drivers and drivers to consult on issues relevant to the men and women with a steering wheel in their hands. 

As long as it’s done properly this time many won’t have an issue. Isn’t it about time we came to grips with the fact that rates, safety, compliance and accidents are inextricably related? It’s also time the public came to grips with the reality that it costs money to run a truck no matter what direction the freight is going? 

With proper consultation and drafting of orders you’re going to have trouble putting up a good case for not doing it. Before anyone starts on about there being less freight out of Adelaide etc understand this, there are loads, there will always be loads. If the playing field is level then price should no longer be a point of difference. It becomes about service and reliability. 

We have a situation now where larger carriers will quote on a job leaving no fat on the bone. In fact the only way they make money out of some work is farm it out to subcontractors and then charge things like service fees while pocketing a few hundred off the top as well. Oh, they’ll put a couple of company trucks on the job for the sake of appearances but that’s all it is. 

As a former owner-driver I know its hard but not impossible to cultivate your own clients. We need to stop undervaluing our services and stand firm on what we need to be profitable. It’s not enough to just get by. 

 Moving on from it’s not enough to just get by, there are two other issues that require just as much attention. The bar to get into trucking needs to be raised both on a business level and a licensing level.  

It’s too easy to get into a truck and swim in the pond. You don’t need to have a big wad of cash either. Go to a truck dealer, rent to own! Pick a prime mover sign on the line. Go to a trailer rental company, sign on the line, job done. There’s a couple of web-based loading sites about now, pick a load, away you go! Not everyone who does this is a danger to themselves and others but how do we know they’re not? Some out there have absolutely no idea what it costs to run. They rely on the “goodwill” of the majors to pay a fair rate, cynical me is laughing. They rely on things like fuel rebates. 

You’re already behind. You’ve been relieved of a couple of hundred bucks to help the contractors bottom line then they charge a service fee to process your paperwork and pay you. It’s time to wake up. If you’re relying on the diesel rebate then quit now. Your margin is too thin. Frankly I’ll be amazed if it ever comes back.  

As we push toward nationwide regulation, why can we not have a system that requires each company engaged in road freight movement to be registered and accredited to a uniform standard? Something akin to the US DOT system. Every business held to the same standard, every truck easily cross referenced to a business. It wouldn’t take long for those colouring outside the lines to be exposed. 

Even if WA and the NT continue to walk their own path, as is their right, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be working together in this area. 

 Then there’s driver licensing, an area neglected for decades. This idea that we can import drivers and throw them into trucks has to stop. It’s lunacy to suggest it’s a good idea to take someone with no driving experience in this country and in a few days give them unsupervised control of the biggest things on our roads. 

No more of this present a HR equivalent licence and four days later sign up with an agency and be doing Tarcutta change overs the next night. It’s MADNESS! It must change. Every taxi, limo and bus driver has a driver’s authority but you can just climb behind the wheel of a semi and head off? It’s about time we have a proper commercial driver license system. 

 It’s also time for proper driving schools that teach more than how to pass a driving school administered test. But that’s another can of worms for another day.

 You can contact me via @theoztrucker on twitter, On The Road Podcast (@otrpodcastaus) on Facebook or go to www.ontheroadpodcast.com.au to leave a comment and see links to the show or email me directly mike@ontheroadpodcast.com.au. 

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