The silly season is coming, but at what cost to the driver?

silly season

Silly season is nearly here for another year, so we want to take the opportunity to wish all the trucking families a very Merry Christmas and to thank our drivers for all that they do.

This season brings on many added pressures for drivers and in this current economic climate the pressures are many and varied.

  • Customer expectation
  • Management expectations
  • Enforcement
  • Road conditions
  • Weather constraints
  • Work diary constraints
  • Mechanical issues
  • Financial pressures
  • Family expectations
  • Industrial action of other industries

Let’s look at the extra enforcement that is around at the moment, especially in NSW.  NHVR started operating in NSW this year but NSW Police have not stopped their enforcement operations… in fact they appear to have stepped it up in many locations.

Almost daily we see posts like the above on Facebook. Is it because of revenue targets? Is it about safety? Is it about asserting their authority? What is it about?

Apart from more enforcement operations in NSW with either NHVR, NSW Police or both agencies together, the amount of enforcement has increased. Why, and what is it achieving?

From a drivers’ partners perspective, it’s achieving increased incidences of depression, stress, violence, chemical dependence (prescribed or illicit) and many other ‘unintended consequences’.

Again, from our perspective, it is decreasing safety as our partner is often more focussed on whether or not they’ve got all their paperwork right instead of actually concentrating on the task of driving safely.

They’re struggling to find adequate parking to take the mandated rest breaks, irrespective of whether or not they need one.

They’re hoping they haven’t forgotten to circle the day of the week on their work diary page, either today or any day previous in their work diary.

They’re worrying about how much money it might cost them if they did forget a minor legislative requirement, irrespective of whether or not is impacts safety for themselves or others they interact with.

Psychosocial is the trending term for mental health issues and forms part of WHS requirements.  Do you feel the extra pressure? Do you feel like you’re not being listened to? Do you feel like your treatment in the workplace is affecting your mental health?

Businesses have a duty of care to ensure this doesn’t happen, not only the company a driver works for, but ALL parties in the Chain of Responsibility. Many large and medium-sized companies have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and/or have engaged Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds and their peer support program, or OzHelp Foundation with their call centre manned by non-industry first tier support.

By employers having any of the above in place it allows them to have superficially ‘ticked the box’ thus covering their proverbial backside should any driver wish to lodge a WHS claim for psychosocial impairment.

What these people don’t seem to understand is that drivers don’t trust colleagues, or others paid by their employer, when discussing their health for fear of loosing their licence – their only means of supporting their family.

The industry pundits don’t make it any easier when they want to step up the medicals to include mental health checks but don’t create an environment that fosters openness or a means of addressing the reasons for their declining mental health.

Don’t get us wrong, the mental health of our drivers is more important to us than anyone else. What we see however, is our partner being inundated with additional pressures to perform for everyone else and receiving the greatest attention from law enforcement agencies for petty errors.

One incident that we are aware of was a driver of 30-plus years, currently an owner-driver, who couldn’t get his licence renewed until he had a mental health assessment.

He’s been treated and medicated for depression for quite a number of years due to someone else’s choice of using his truck as their weapon of choice in their suicide. His mental health has been stable and monitored, but now there’s more bureaucracy that negatively impacts… you guessed it… his mental health!

Sorry, we forgot to mention, the first available appointment with a mental health practitioner to sign his licence form was four months after his licence expired.

Is it any wonder good, qualified, experienced drivers are leaving the industry?

Work diaries, enforcement, mental health…can’t those making the decisions for drivers see what they are doing?

We guess a new blinged up tar jockey in a 9’0 must be safer than those leaving due to over-regulation, over-enforcement, being over-worked, underpaid, underestimated, but most of all under appreciated!

Thank you drivers! You keep your family going and the country stocked with whatever you carry.

We appreciate you, even if we sometimes forget to say it often enough.

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