Opinion

Bored Neurotic Housewife: ‘Is any of this about drivers’ safety?’

Trucking today is a family affair, and as a family we work together for the common good.

It’s more than just drivers out there driving a truck from A to B these days, there is all the compliance that has been dumped on the drivers, red tape as it were.

It needs the driver and their partner to work together to ensure the smooth operation of the business.

Compliance is meant to be simple wouldn’t you think? The drivers will tell you exactly how it needs to work and what needs to be done and it’s KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid). Until they become an allocator or customer.

Drivers have such a distrust of the system and the major trucking businesses that they will not do submissions or speak up.

They throw their hands in the air or turn to Facebook to whinge. Many drivers glaze over when you mention submission. They wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about, so they ignore it.

The NTC and Industry Advisory Council know this.

But wait, let’s have a survey. Let’s survey 100 members of the TWU and get all the answers for the WHOLE industry be it grain, livestock, tipper, box, inter, intra, local.

Now let’s put these answers into a computer model and press a few buttons and listen to the non-industry expert’s interpretation of the results. Remembering there is over 30,000 truck movements on average on the highways of Australia every single day.

The NTC started a review of the NHVL in November 2018 to simplify it and make it safer.

The changes they would like to make would only affect long distance trucking.  There does not appear to be any changes for the other sectors in trucking i.e. local drivers, box carters, tippers, etc.

An example is that a tipper driver can work up to 16 hours a day and are paid by the load without an obvious impact to their earning capacity or fatigue.

In this time, the NTC have asked on a couple occasions for industry feedback. The associations give feedback on the behalf of their members which make up approximately 30 per cent of the industry. Not a lot of employee, or owner-drivers do respond.

The latest morsal dished up by the NTC is they feel it would be safer to reduce the hours for drivers daily.

Yes, that’s correct. Their main course is – let’s reduce your hours to 10 hours a day. Sounds reasonable enough for those that work 8 or 10 exhausting hours of work each day, five days a week.

If they work overtime, they are rewarded with extra pay at time and half, or double time, depending how long they decide they need to work to get the job done. Long haul drivers can’t do overtime.

It sounds like a driver is a housewife – all those hours of free unpaid work, running around doing never ending thankless favours for nothing in return – but that’s another story for another day.

As we mull over our wines, we start to think of how our other halves may be sleeping. Fatigue, after all, isn’t just caused by not enough sleep, but not enough continuous and restful sleep.

It reminds us of when we cook a cake. We can use all the right ingredients, but if we don’t have enough time to cook it properly, we can turn the temperature up to make the cake cook faster. It’s not going to be ready in the middle, and the outside may well get burnt – looks good, tastes good but is flat in the middle.

Alternately, we can put the cake in early, but because we want it ready when we want it ready, we’ll take it out of the oven halfway through the cooking process and put it back in later for it to cook the rest of the time. Sometimes that might be okay, but most of the time the cake won’t work properly because it had too much downtime in the middle of the process. In fact, it’s shithouse.

Our cupcakes on the road aren’t any different. If we keep delaying and messing with their sleep patterns and then pushing them thanks to even tighter timeframes, they won’t rise to the occasion and will either burn, flop or be shithouse.

Going back to our other halves, we can see the problem straight away with them having to do their weekly Melbourne via Sydney to Brisbane and return run. After we kiss them goodbye, they head to work, check their truck is safe to go for their trip, get loaded and then leave Melbourne.

Just to drive to Sydney, we know they need at least nine hours plus their required rest breaks. Add in the odd delay like a customer running late to load them, road works, getting stuck in peak hour traffic, and they just can’t make it to Sydney in the one day legally under the NTC’s proposed new HVNL fatigue laws.

They then leave Sydney to Brisbane; this leg currently takes about 10.5 hours plus breaks. With the 10-hour day, this will now take a day and a bit. Add the return to Sydney, then home to Melbourne again and we’re now looking at them being away for five days instead of the current four days.

The longer the jobs take, the less time they can spend at home with their loved ones, yes, we want time with them too, but instead of the blissful time with us, they must head off again to make up for the lost income while still having the same amount to fork out on the never-ending bills.

Maybe the NTC are into brain fart decisions? They must have eaten a load of cabbage for the brain fart to come up with the 10 hours and pushing more drivers to become accredited. Could you imagine being accredited to make a cake? Maybe they should deconstruct the NHVL like we do a pav?

The NTC addition of accreditation to the NHVL would seemingly allow our other halves to still run their 12- or 14-hour logbooks under current compliance, but they will just have to pay for the privilege to do so.  Thus, becoming even more accountable than ever before. Harkens back to the days of paying for a TV licence to run your TV. Really.

Given the amount of compliance, technology etc in place for our enforcement friends, and the ongoing safety systems that are going in the trucks, do they really need even more requirements and additional auditing requirements to satisfy the NHVR?

Absolutely as they can’t been seen to rape the drivers back pocket with registration costs and over regulation any more than they already do.

Additionally, does an accreditation minimise the likelihood of a driver pushing themself beyond their fatigue barrier because they still only have a limited number of hours which they are allowed to work, but their rest has been ‘managed’ to fit in with customers or schedulers tight timeframe needs instead of them being allowed to just stop when they are tired?

The pressure on a driver to get to the allocated place at the allocated time is more intense than when we cook the corned beef in the pressure cooker, minus the golden syrup. Making the time they can drive even less will only serve to increase the pressure, while having the same hours available under an accreditation will mean their rest times will become ‘more flexible’ for the scheduler and customer’s needs, not the driver’s actual fatigue needs.

At the end of the day the only person that will miss out is the truck driver and la familia in family time, time at home, the extra costs related to the extra breaks, the extra costs in relation to accreditation and the extra costs in relation to whatever is deemed a requirement under the accreditation system i.e. auditors.

Drivers are already accountable enough under the current HVNL, or should that be regime?  NTC’s initial approach to the changes back in November 2018 was to ‘simplify’ NHVL. Does this simplify it? Reminds me of how the schools now do long division, give me old school long division any day.

In most cases the Bored Neurotic Housewife is the one that physically pays the bills from the driver’s income, paying for anything from cake mix to truck repairs. Which makes us question how the hell is an owner-driver meant to make ends meet having at least 1.5 days removed from their week?

Does the NTC and the pundits not actually realise that trucking is a family affair, and the family is reliant, in a lot of cases, soley on the driver?

It’s a bit like you can’t cross this border unless you are double jabbed, so everyone runs off and gets doubled jabbed to ensure their jobs are safe. You can’t work 12-14 hours a day unless you get accredited. How many will leave on this cull?

The NTC had the results of their recent performance audit published and it provided some entertaining new Hans Christian Anderson fables. It could have been more Stephen King it depended upon your interpretation of the written word.

The associations and other members of the Industry Advisory Group allegedly passed on glowing reviews about the NTC… and then we get this!

Another question before we must run off and cook the cake, how does sitting in a formal environment listening to someone drone on telling us how to sleep, when to sleep and how to do our logbooks give us any form of safety? I can see how it lines their pockets not our families.

Is any of this about drivers’ safety i.e., physical, financial or mental?

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1 Comment

  1. She’s very much correct, the NHVR is a corporate government entity, so therefore it survives solely by means of profit!

    So we have a corrupted system from the get go, because it’s impossible to have an impartial regulator when they are surviving on profit to operate!

    To add insult to injury, now we are all monitored within an inch of our lives with laws and legislation put in place by over educated imbeciles who know absolutely nothing about what we do….and as a result drivers are leaving the industry in droves, and who would blame them!

    What is required from drivers these days would demand $200k plus a year, but thanks to organisations like the NTC,NHVR, and the FWC, award rates are less than those that collect the shopping trolleys at supermarkets.
    Yes that’s right, for giving up the majority of your life to live in a box, and afforded the use of substandard facilities…when you can find room to get into them, or when they are open, or when you can find an adequate rest area where you won’t be woken by other motorists or trucks, or when law enforcement feels the need to wake you because they want to for whatever pathetic reason, the list could go on and on!

    Basically it comes down to this, we have an industry being controlled for profit, not safety, and as far as I’m concerned that in itself is a far greater criminal offence than anything the majority of could ever do….but hey, that’s not collecting millions in revenue like pure bull shit…oh sorry…PBS.

    As the industry stands, I used to love it 20 years ago, now I can’t wait to get out…I absolutely hate it. Constant over regulation, always chasing up underpayment of super, annual leave, or just basic entitlements, I’ve had enough, all these so-called safety and compliance initiatives have done absolutely nothing for the drivers pocket, but by Christ they made a lot of public servants retire in comfort

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