At just 61, former Newcastle operator Grant Baines would love to come back into the industry he loves and spent most of his working life in.
When he reluctantly closed the doors at Diamond Express Logistics in 2018 due to issues finding the right people to run the business while he recovered from a work-related injury, he’d never been busier carting general freight all the way up the North Coast of NSW.
But Baines says the pain he experienced in his long rehab is nothing like what the guys are experiencing on the road today.
“We had a fuel bill back then of $65-70,000 a month. I couldn’t imagine paying $140-150,000 a month in fuel,” said Baines, who had up to 25 trucks running at any one time, firstly as Grant Baines Transport, and more recently as Diamond Express.
Baines says there’s now also too much red tape to entice him back, from on-site accreditation to mountains of paperwork for every piece of work done on a truck.
While behind the wheel, he’s almost lost count of the number of times he just copped a fine and “got on with it”, even though he knew he wasn’t in the wrong.
Adding salt into the wounds for Baines is the poor state of the roads.
“We pay out big money to those companies that do the asphalt and road maintenance. I’m sure the quality of their work would be improved dramatically if they had to give a six-month warranty on the roads, but they don’t care.
“Look, I’ve still got trucks and deep down I’d really love to come back but I shake my head – every day it gets worse and worse.”
If there is a way out of the mire, Baines says the governments, both at a state and federal level, have to be more responsible.
“If you go on to a private property, that company can get a fine for not having a safe workplace. When are the governments going to add up the facts that they provide the roads, they charge us to drive on the roads, but their roads are what do most of the damage to trucks, and they have no responsibility.”
Baines says one of his biggest pet hates is also the fact drivers can go from a HR to a B-double licence by paying $1300-1400.
“You should have to spend at least 12 months of driving a heavy combination before you should be able to get a B-double licence.
“I’ve always said that I would be prepared to sit on a on a panel and talk to people about how to rectify it [the industry’s issues], because there’s got to be a way.
“But it takes two parties to work at that, and both parties have got to accept change.”