With over 40 years on the road, trucking veteran and owner operator Warren Acott says the industry is in dire straits. “We’re watching the industry self-destruct – there’s no other way to put it.”
Based near Bendigo in Victoria, 65-year-old Acott is a single truck owner operator, who has been working for himself for over 20 years.
“I grew up literally hanging out the windows of an S-model Bedford, Commer Knockers, 10-series Dodges, C-lines and more – counting the wheel nuts going around and listening to them roar as my old man pushed them up the hill, thinking I can’t wait until I’m old enough to do this myself. I was driving trucks as a kid and it evolved from there,” said Acott.
“It’s breaking my heart that now truck drivers are just getting screwed over and rorted,” he said.
Acott believes the trouble started for drivers when Chain of Responsibility (CoR) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator came in. He says the problem has only been further exacerbated by the introduction of the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme, due to its costs which are out of reach for many one-truck operators like himself.
“I think it’s nothing but a stinking rort. The vehicle I have is 2009 Kenworth T908. In the past 12 months, I’ve spent over $120,000 on it. They can pull me up anywhere I go and they won’t find anything wrong with it, but things like shockers continually need to be changed over.
“I have a B-double set of tippers, which I can convert into road trains with a dolly in the middle. I’m based in Victoria, but I’m in SA now using it as a road train. I can use it as a road train in five states, but I can’t in Victoria, unless I fork out thousands of dollars for permits. I’m 65 now, I’m not going to spend a million dollars on a new truck and trailer set-up to do something I can already do with this truck.
“I’m sick to death of putting my hand in my pocket. Truck operators are continually parting with money and getting absolutely rorted and nobody cares. If the banking industry or the housing industry was doing what the transport industry is doing, there’d be an uproar.
“And now companies are closing down because they can’t get drivers – why would you want to do it? I was speaking to a young bloke here the other day and he asked if it was worth it. I said owner operators are at the bottom of the food chain now.”
Acott says that the job took a toll on his family life too. “Being a single owner operator, it cost me my marriage in the end. You work all week, then all weekend you’re doing general repairs because things break down and wear out. That wears on your family life too.”
But despite how tough the industry has become as an owner operator, Acott has no plans of giving it away. “It’s in the blood. I still enjoy the freedom, the vehicles and I like my old truck, but it takes a bit longer to clean it these days as I’m getting older,” he said.
“I have nothing else to do and I still enjoy my truck. I also have a V8 Super-Liner at home that I managed to get hold of and I’d love to get that rebuilt up from scratch. But it’s hard when as an owner operator you’re constantly having to pay for this and pay for that.”