Someone needs the guts to speak out about this

speak out

I am writing with my full support of Nicholas Hales’ letter to you that was published in your last issue [cover date, May 10].

I have forwarded an email to you that I sent to an industry representative in August last year [see edited extract below] voicing my concerns with safety issues running east-west interstate.

I am 54 and have more than 28 years of transport experience. I have run ‘The Paddock’ for a long time, mainly solo driving, and back in the early 1990s when everyone, and regulations, were still a bit loose, when it was mainly single trailer work east-west and evolved into the B-double and road train era. We were probably the last of ‘old school’ era, the last of that generation that was taught the ‘old school’ ways.

The trucks were quick, some real quick. The unwritten industry rule of thumb was Perth – Melbourne solo – 36 hours; Perth – Sydney – 44/46 hours solo driving.

If you couldn’t consistently do these times, you probably wouldn’t have had a job on wages driving interstate unless you were an owner/driver.

The camaraderie on the road was second-to-none. Many of my closest friends today are from being on the road in that era. There seem to be less accidents; we never had to worry about who was coming at us, or if they were over the centre line.

It was common courtesy to move to the left fog line for an oncoming truck and it was always returned, even if we were sitting on a ‘dollar-thirty’.

As unregulated as those times were, and a lot of things not by the book, there was an etiquette that you followed on the road that bred mutual respect.

Drivers got taught how to restrain loads properly by the old boys that had done it for years. We are all particular about knots, neatness, tucking buckles up, and who had the best tarp job. It was almost like a competition, there’s no way any decent operator would be seen down the road with loose ballooning curtains, or tarps looking like parachutes!

You just don’t wake up one day with this knowledge. It’s gained only by hands-on experience and taught by those that have the experience.

Email from August, 2023:

I want to make one thing extremely clear and it’s the opinion of ALL decent, respectful, responsible heavy vehicle drivers and operators here in the west: this IS NOT a race issue – it’s a SAFETY ONLY issue.

Every time the issue around a certain cohort of overseas drivers is raised and the lack of experience they have, especially driving multi-combinations, someone pulls the race card.

But it’s going to end in tears unless someone in prominence in transport has the guts to speak out and to somehow find a resolution.

This is purely about if you’re experienced enough to safely and competently operate multi-combination heavy vehicles on our city roads and highways Australia-wide with other day-to-day road users so we can ALL return home safely to our families and loved ones.

We are having two or more rollovers a week here in the west and there have been weeks of more than two. 

These rollovers, side swipes, head-ons and running off the road just don’t happen on rural WA roads, these are a common occurrence on Tonkin and Roe Highways in Perth city.

Grain haulage within WA is the biggest issue currently with grain trucks accounting for the majority of rollovers.

One of our major grain haulage contractors have lost 11 combinations this year alone.

There is also an attitude issue that’s nearly at boiling point out on the highways where experienced drivers are getting abused over the UHF and returning it.

In just about every transport yard I’ve been in over here that has overseas MC drivers doing pick-ups or deliveries they can’t reverse a B-double or back a trailer and dolly.

If you are an MC driver this is a skill that is part of your job and part of the reason we hold an MC license to start with.

The Northam and Wubin road-train assembly areas are an absolute comedy show on Tuesday and Friday night and it doesn’t take long before tempers are frayed, and the facilities end up gridlocked. 

Along with the lack of experience there is a massive lack of common-sense or common courtesy with trailers getting backed into, trailers dropped on the ground, A-frames constantly being bent, and tearing around like they are in a race car, high beams and spotlights up.

It is well known the industry is short of drivers and the big companies are desperate to put bums in seats, but surely not at the expense of others’ lives and safety?

How can this issue be publicly raised in a diplomatic way and resolved in a timely manner?

I consider this to be one of THE biggest issues currently facing the transport industry today. 


  1. We rock up to a new job full of doubt, fear and questions – and the blokes we answer to are allocators or operations managers who don’t claim to have the slightest clue how to strap, how to find approved routes or what to do when X.
    Here’s the keys, don’t make a mistake.

    I’ve got a bone to pick with every part of the chain including the council and TMR, due to deficiencies I’ve witnessed first hand.

    I reckon there’s a reason they say truckies know everything, it’s cause you don’t last long if you don’t.

  2. What you say is absolutely true. It is a country wide problem. Went up and back on the Hume a couple of weeks ago in my car. After 40 + yrs in transport, yes I’m old school, I can honestly say the camaraderie is gone. People who have the hide to call themselves truck drivers are not. They’re steering wheel attendants. We will wake up one morning and hear that a b double has cleaned up 30 cars or killed several people because they didn’t stop or they couldn’t stop or whatever. Surely this country that relies so heavily on road transport can sort this mess out? There isn’t a shortage of drivers, there’s a shortage of drivers who are sick of working for nothing. Name another industry this big that doesn’t have an apprenticeship, or takes your weeks wages because you made a mistake in your logbook or you worked too hard? Seriously?? You want drivers? Start teaching them young. Start teaching them to respect people and take responsibility. Stop blaming those that want to feed their families and taking their money for some ridiculous reason. I really hope someone in power has the balls to fix this mess, but I doubt it. Yes, we ran hard and fast in the old days, but we knew when we needed a rest, not when a government issued piece of paper told us we had to, then make us drive fatigued because that piece of paper said we had to, otherwise the rest of your week was shot time wise.
    I do miss the old days. I don’t miss the impractical set up they call transport today.

  3. Here here it’s about time someone said the truth & just hope that the government of the day & big companies getting bigger take notice of the little bloke that is a true professional

  4. Not a interstate truck driver but put the miles in trucks cars bikes and now retired a van . Could not agree more with everything you say. The lunatics are out there now. I’ve had to get off the highway ond stop to avoid a head on twice on my last East West trip. Double overtaking a double clear vision no radio.

  5. I couldn’t agree more with all the above comments!!
    I am a mother of a b-double fuel tank driver and am very worried for his safety. Just last week he had a close call with death. He was passing on an overtaking lane on the Duke’s highway, after been given ‘the indication’ it was ok to pass, but as the end of the overtaking was approaching, the driver he was overtaking did not back off and before my son could do anything another truck was on top of these two.
    My son said the oncoming b-double was on their fog line, and the other truck ( he was passing) ‘had to have gone over in the dirt.’ My son said he was unable to go anywhere but to just hold on and hope for the best.

    The driver of the truck he was overtaking did not apologise or comment for the near mishap other than to ‘grunt’ at my son’s comment over the radio. He would agree with all the comments above as well, as he has mentioned to me many times that comradery is gone. He had the older fellas to guide him originally and still uses their wisdom.

    I wish the governments of our country would regulate this industry a little more closely before we lose anymore lives to these cowboys that are overtaking this industry.

    1. 54 years in the industry not any more because of a shiny bum beaurocrat. No one will do anything because the whole god damm industry is run by idiots who haven’t got a clue. We need someone up top who has done the miles and who has the knowledge. Albosleazy wont do anything he’s only interested in his hip pocket and that of the stupid greens and their cohorts. I agree we need someone with huge balls at the top to pull everyone into line.

      1. I think you’re giving Labor and the Greens too much credit, they’re not exactly known for being successful at changing policy

        The bigger picture is that the Liberals, and Labors no better, have spent decades selling off our jobs to their mates massive businesses. And the only people who get asked about the impacts of their decisions are “consultants” and “business leaders” aka the people who donate millions to the major parties

        We need more power in unions and politicians who have done their time working and understand the needs of industry, workers and the average citizen.

      2. I have been an owner driver since 1988 and on interstate from the early 80’s.
        To the author of the article ,100% accurate from start to finish and I commend you. To the responses , agree whole heartedly.
        This is about safety 100%, saving lives and not to mention survival.
        The added issues we have is that for us to be at this point, think about this. There has to have been some worrying principles and agenda’s put in place , deep in government , beaurocracy and transport ruling areas (Associations ) to maintain the “status quo ” at the moment.
        As mentioned , 4 police killed and nothing has changed .
        I was heavily involved with the RSRT and this issue we have is 100 % linked to controlling costs within the industry because successive govt’s just waste money and we propose up the economy.
        When a lollipop attendant can earn twice as much as a truck driver , then “Housten,we have a problem”
        Being a successful applicant for a truck driving job now is as simple as it could ever get, get it out the driveway and out of sight of the person who gave you the keys . NOW ITS NOT MY PROBLEM.
        Yes I believe we have passed the point of no return for tge industry as we knew it , BUT MARK MY WORDS.
        And this current issue is moving at a fast rate from driver , to owner , to fleet owner and not to mention LOGISTICS AND DISTRUBITION.
        Old sayings and principles always rule and come of day.
        There is safety in numbers my friends and dictatoring of this industry is here and the takeover is on its way where dumbarse govt will be helpless to resist cost rises then.
        To Big Rigs and my involvement over the years (Thanks Carly) , you do a magnificent job in the face of a restricted audience and that’s also our problem, NO PUBLIC VALUE OR NEDIA PLATFORM.
        Don’t forget comrades , tge problem is not the problem, ITS THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM.

        I am now going to call out a person as it’s been mentioned , someone has to stand up.
        I was the last presenter at his inquiry into the industry and its safety in Melbourne.
        I refer to Glenn Sterle, a former industry stalwart and owner driver , TURNED POLITICIAN.
        This man did all the homework pre election win , to be in the position of Transport Minister.
        Make no mistake, Albo bent this industry over by allocating it to someone else.
        However , one would expect , unconditionally and unreservedly , that this man is the one to stand up .
        And my comments are 100% not of racism content or intent .

  6. As a well and truly retired driver I liked your tarp comment even today if I see a well tarped load I will call the driver and tell him.some look like a balloon

  7. An indication of they’ve loss the plot is when being licensed for road trains with work history I had to do a full test to be licensed for B-Doubles ?

  8. I’m couldn’t agree anymore with what you’re saying and trying to point out here , I a 33 years of experience in the transport industry as MC driver in livestock transport have seen so many changes in the whole of the transport industry, I actually love and enjoy my job and the industry that’s why I have been doing it for so long! But sadly I gave it away and come off the road,2 months ago,the respect and mateship towards each other is no longer out there, as well as the inexperience of drivers who are driving in the transport industry these days. I didn’t feel safe out there anymore! To all the professional and old school drivers who are still out there, I say thank you for what you do. Please stay safe.

  9. One thing we can be certain of is nothing will change. Been in the transport industry since 1990. But at least back then it was better to a degree.

  10. I pretty much agree with everything said here. I’m fully retired now; but, I gave away full-time driving quite a while back; because of all the issues mentioned above (and more). I started driving when I was 16; and, I learned a lot on the job from other drivers (including a great mentor, a Dutch guy called Bill). I always treated driving as an art, as well as a skill, and I took pride in what I did. I consider myself to be ‘old school’; but, I wouldn’t want to be doing the job nowadays. I really miss driving big rigs; but, it’s become a total mugs game.

  11. Agree totally.
    We need better training, testing and a system of apprenticeship for “new to industry” drivers.
    The large transport companies just put loads first over experience.
    I work for one over WA who puts newbies into quads – go figure.
    Most have only steered a single or b/double with minimal weight and automatic!!
    Other experienced drivers mentor for a short period then off they go. Nothing like the couple of years on tray tops, ugly freight, progress to double road trains etc.
    Mentality seems to be the fresh guys will do the trip, no questions asked, that’s easy management. The older experienced guys will call it out, go a bit slower to take precautions…..gee what a pain they are to management (yes sarcastic).
    The mentality needs to change. The will is not there anymore to train. Just tick & flick, make sure the paperwork is signed to cover corporate ass.
    A few great young people coming into the industry, lured by glossy web sites.
    Hope it doesn’t end bad for them and others.

  12. I’ve been in the industry 34 years now and even I’ve seen the comeraderie, professionalism and safety standards drop through the floor these drivers these days Don’t know how to tarp,dog and chain,strap loads Down properly and definately Don’t know how to back B-doubles let alone road trains make the industry more attractive to work in and give us a decent wage that’s why there is a shortage of drivers because the money isn’t there and until they fix that they will always have this problem cheers all you drivers out there and stay safe

  13. Well said mate, it’s shits me when they pull the race card as I know a lot of Indian drivers who are competent and will agree that a lot of Indians shouldn’t be in trucks. I left the highway after a near miss and decided to do local tipper work which lasted a coup,e of years but due to my hate of arrogance among all of today’s steering wheel attendants I also gave that up to. To put it bluntly ” THE INDUSTRY IS F@#$%D

  14. This is so true, I have over 40 years and now thankfully not doing the big kilometres but still see the results of inexperienced operators on the Pacific Highway. It is not about racism it is simply the fact that the laws allow these people behind the wheel.It must change

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