Opinion

I’m in the ‘Wild, Wild West’ and it’s not what I expected

west

I’ve been playing this trucking game for a good while now. I’ve spent most of my career tooling around in the eastern states and had many different jobs, owned my own trucks and employed drivers etc. so I’ve worn a few different shirts over the years.

I’d found myself in a great job with a great supportive company, good gear and making good money. The road to retirement plan was in place. Then Covid happened.

Border closures and other requirements have made it difficult to plan ahead for holidays and visiting relatives in the far-flung reaches of our country.

To cut a long story short, I’ve moved from NSW to WA to make it a bit easier to see grand children.

I’ve moved from an environment I know well to what I thought would be a free-for-all.

What I’ve found is a contrast. It’s not what I expected. There’s a lot going on in WA.

It’s a big place. There’s also a lot done in a way over here that would get you in serious trouble on the Hume. It certainly is a different world and in some ways it is wild but it does all make sense.

There’s no log book in WA, but that doesn’t mean there are no rules. The enforcement and attitude is different. That’s all. Fatigue is taken very seriously over here.

There’s an on-line fatigue management course which is in every way similar to what is done in the east except it’s delivered by the transport department and, surprisingly, it’s free.

It must be renewed periodically but that’s not a problem. You do need to keep a record of your work that is given to the boss and it is there to be audited.

It’s just not in a yellow pad with a red binder. The big difference is in the enforcement and the attitude. You’re not getting pulled up for random checks by Highway Patrol they only do traffic offences.

The time counting and allowed work time is much easier to work with and far more flexible. The system is available on MT Data so could easily be done in the east.

It’s confusing to me that given the NHVR are pushing the AFM model recently why wouldn’t they just scrap the 12 and 14 book, adopt the WA system that clearly works and give the industry a truely national law with less hoops and more clarity?

Is that too easy?

What’s a road-friendly suspension? I’ve been sitting behind the wheel of some pretty big trucks with weights on them that would get you grounded for the rest of your life at Marulan! – 375 tyres on the steer will get you 7-tonne.

Kick it up to a twin steer, they love those over here, and get much more overall. Tri-drive on the highway, why not! 23.5 tonne on that group.

Rocker boxes and springs with a big spread (or not, up to you) 23.5 tonne. Absolutely. With the exception of prime mover they love springs over here.

I’ve been sitting behind the wheel of a tri-drive with a pair of tri-axle side tippers and a tri dolly on the open road on springs at 100 tonnes.

They have a pragmatic permit and road access system that seems to make more sense than over east and seems to work.

The NHVR and the eastern states road managers could learn from that. Strangely, the roads aren’t ripped to shreds by these combinations and the swept paths aren’t that much different either.

The biggest and probably the most gratifying thing I’ve seen over here in the Wild West is a level of relaxed pragmatism about getting it done.

There’s plenty of technology in the trucks and many know how to use it. They’re not afraid to experiment with new combinations and ways of moving freight.

They’re also not as afraid to teach. Maybe because it’s because there is a shortage of experienced operators, but I think theres more to it than that. There’s an attitude amongst many of the drivers I’ve met over here that reminds me of what it was like in days gone by.

It’s not all beer and skittles though. Compared to the east coast some of the money on offer is appalling. The rest areas can be few and far between. Roadhouses are also few and far between, a decent meal and shower can be very elusive. It’s not the Hume Highway after all.

I’ve taken on a FIFO job. Soon I’ll be behind the wheel of a quad, one of the biggest road going, high productivity truck combinations in the world.

They tare as much as a loaded B-double and burn diesel like it’s going out of fashion.

They’re also fitted with the very latest in-cab telematics. It’s not wild. It’s thoroughly professional. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

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, email me directly mike@ontheroadpodcast.com.au or call me on 0418 722488.

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