Angela Welsh shared her thoughts with Big Rigs.
Angela Welsh shared her thoughts with Big Rigs. Bruce Honeywill

Truckies getting the short end of the stick

AFTER the tragic crash that happened near Kingaroy in Queensland where the mother drove head-on into a truck coming the other way, there was the normal response on one of the trucking Facebook pages saying "get ready for a blitz boys and girls, with three fatals in as many days, all car v truck they will have to look good in the eyes of the public..."

It's so heartbreaking that this is one of the first thoughts that enters the minds of so many truck drivers and trucking businesses.

We are becoming accustomed to the knee-jerk responses by police and/or road transport authorities where the vehicle and the business the truck is owned by are often "inspected" shortly after a collision, even if there are no indications that the truck involved in the collision was in any way at fault.

These thoughts and feelings are not just by those that "have something to hide", but by the vast majority of businesses and drivers in our industry. Why?

I can only imagine that it comes down to the apparent targeting of trucks and truck drivers by the different regulatory and enforcement bodies that seem to have a zero tolerance approach to enforcement.

No matter how amazing you are, there is always going to be something that is not 100 per cent spot on (e.g. exceed speed by 5km/h going down a hill, wrong day/date in work diary, bit of dirt on your number plate etc).

There have been many operations by police and the road regulatory authorities, both in the same states/territories and joint operations with other states/territories.

These operations target heavy vehicles under the guise of "safety".

I strongly support having safer roads, but the targeted approach seems to be addressing the minority causes rather than majority of causes of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.

While I am not a mathematician, I look at the stats available to the general public on fatalities on the roads Australia-wide.

It is now accepted that between 80 and 93 per cent of "truck involved" crashes are not the fault of the truck or truck driver.

In 2018, there were 1141 deaths on our roads, 156 deaths were "truck involved" (excluding buses - which had 21 "bus involved" deaths).

This means 13.67 percent of deaths on the roads were "truck involved".

Of those, if we take the conservative 80 per cent of these not being the fault of the truck driver, this makes approximately 31 deaths the fault of the truck driver.

2.7 per cent of deaths on our roads are a direct result of our truck drivers (either by gross negligence through to being technically "at fault").

We live in an age where people are inundated with information from reputable and non-reputable media outlets and social media.

To draw attention to a cause, organisations and individuals have to grab people's attention with sensational headlines to get people to look more closely at the details, if they can be bothered to look any further.

It's the sensational headline, however, that has the most impact for people remembering the story itself.

The TWU has managed on many occasions to bring attention to our dangerous industry by spruiking the "truck involved" numbers, and not the "at fault" numbers.

They talk about trucks being neglected and drivers being fatigued as a chronic and ongoing issue with the industry as a whole, but they do not clarify how many people they truly represent (i.e. their members only).

Media releases after targeted operations by police and road authorities are another source that diminishes our industry's image by not putting the results into perspective.

After each operation, a spokesperson talks about the results of the blitz, identifying the number of infringements and defect notices, the number of drug/alcohol tests and the requisite statement along the lines of "police will not stop targeting truck drivers for the safety of all road users".

They do not, however, identify the number of false positives to the drug tests, nor whether those drugs were illegal substances or prescribed/over the counter medications.

The infringements are identified generically, and are often for a matter that is not necessarily safety related, but doesn't quite fit in the laws (e.g. 2cm over width because of a load settling when the truck leaves a farm).

It's zero tolerance to try to achieve zero deaths on our roads.

The sad fact is, with the 2.7 per cent of fatalities on our roads being caused by our truck drivers, the "targeted blitz" seem to go against the theory that our trucks and drivers are a major source of the death and carnage on our roads, but what happens with the operations for the other 97.3 per cent of deaths that result from other factors?

No death on our roads is acceptable, but targeting our truckies without giving the big picture reinforces the general public's perception that our industry is still rife with "thugs, criminals and dummies" that are out on a killing spree every time we're on the road.

We are not seen as people that just want to get our job done and get home safely to our friends and family, despite being legislated to the extreme, and punished for minor infringements that could potentially cost our licence and our job.

With the focus from so many sensational headlines about our truckies, too many road users will not see how their actions are causing dangerous situations on our roads every day.

They can't, or won't, change their driving habits or learn how to drive safely, and legally, around the anonymous "truck", but continue blaming those "idiot" truck drivers, without whom they would be hungry, naked and homeless!

Big Rigs

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