Let's make the right people responsible
AS I write this column, the news has come through that two transport workers have died in a head-on crash in North Queensland.
Drivers are still dying on our roads but are not always at fault.
We have over the past few weeks seen a flurry of activity related to the coming changes for the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator's Chain of Responsibility (COR).
Federal Transport Minister Michael McCormack is out and about, shaking hands and ensuring that employer bodies are given the nod for their work on ensuring a better industry.
A better industry for who? The question remains, How is the new legislation going to address it's strategies relating to influence, responsibility and legality.
Will for example local authorities head over the border to take on a company that sent a dodgy load interstate or will they continue to force the driver to face the courts for an issue they have very little influence over?
Drivers are still being targeted by those who make the law, and those who enforce compliance, as the root of the problems on the road.
Consider this statement by the NSW Roads and Maritime Service (RMS): "It is every road user who has a personal responsibility for behaviours, actions and decisions that they take when using the road.”
It is certainly gratifying to see an acknowledgement by industry and government of a shared responsibility for safe roads, but this still puts the full responsibility on drivers instead of operators.
The RMS Director of Compliance, Robin Weeks, has publicly stated that COR will reduce pressure on drivers 'to break the law'.
It is still evident however that drivers will always be the targets when it comes to compliance processes that prosecute road users.
So there you have it, drivers are apparently supposed to be responsible for dodgy practices, poor maintenance, illegal loading, and the lies of management.
Is the truck registered? A driver doesn't know - rego stickers are a thing of the past - but will still have to cop the fine and the box tickers mark another win.
We are watching a situation develop where industry organisations are responding to the coming rule changes by developing codes of practice and ways of "promoting a positive safety culture in workplaces”.
They are seeking to develop ideas, seeking to build understanding, improving technology and more.
Again, this sounds like a good thing, but the language they are using is about creating loopholes and get-out-of-gaol-free cards for the industry rather than looking out for drivers.
We already know what the problem is and what needs to be done. Again I quote from the report from Monash's landmark 12-year-study:
"A study conducted by Macquarie University, which surveyed 559 truck drivers, found that a high proportion of participants reported working long hours carrying unsafe loads.
More than 10% of truck drivers stated that they worked more than 80 hours a week and over 80% reported working more than 50 hours per week.”
The Chain of Responsibility legislation is designed to be a set of rules for enforcement from the boardroom down, and it should be addressing these problems where they actually start - but it isn't.
Drivers are still copping the blame for issues they don't have a say in while those responsible get away with it. As long as that continues to happen, drivers will continue to die.