Letter to the Melbourne Sun Herald

To: Mr Keith Moore, Herald Sun, Melbourne.

Re: Your article, "Truckies drive 16 hours a day, use ice, speed to stay awake", published 23rd February 2015 (Article Link)

Dear Mr Moore,

Having recently read your article, I am aghast at the inaccuracy and lack of research that a career journalist, such as yourself, would put their name to. This is blatant sensationalism and little to do with informing your readers of the truth.

The truth is that without trucks Australia surely would stop, even when consumers were centralized around rail freight infrastructure the last mile still relied on trucks and without that rail freight infrastructure and the lack of timely deliveries to JIT manufacturing facilities commerce would soon struggle without road freight.

These facts are not meant as justification for any illegal or even immoral actions by operators in the road freight industry but rather to highlight the importance of a general public that knows why we're here and why it's imperative that the average road user becomes more familiar with heavy vehicle rather than fearful and frustrated. It is my opinion that the fear, ignorance and animosity of many road users causes a lot of the safety issues we truck drivers try hard to resolve on a daily basis.

Your opening salvo states that "Police have discovered cowboy truckies are exploiting a loophole in the law and driving for more than 16 hours a day". Firstly, it's not "cowboy truckies", it law abiding drivers operating within the envelope defined by the legislation and it can't legally be done without a seven hour rest somewhere in amongs those sixteen hours.

As the legislation stands a 24 hr period commences at the end of a major rest break and not necessarily at midnight therefore it is possible to do more than the regulated 14 hrs on any one calendar day. The confusion arises when the ill informed believe a page in a work diary is equivalent to a 24 hr period as defined by the legislation. To many it sounds confusing because it is but it's not illegal.

I might also point out that this is nothing new. The Victorian Police were complaining about this two years ago (Link) and if they still have valid concerns they'd be better voiced to the industry regulator than an already nervous public. When the NHVR revised the current work diary last May it was suggested that the page totals be removed as they are not indicative of maximum work hours in the relevant legislation and merely a reflection of total hours in a calendar day. As all State bodies involved couldn't agree on this point, the page totals remain.

Your next statement says "Victoria Police drug-testing figures also reveal those rogue operators are increasingly using stimulant drugs such as ice and speed to keep them awake". I'll admit there are those in the industry that do partake in illegal drug use but the truth is they'd have a drug habit no matter what occupation they persued, if you need more than a RedBull to do this job you're doing it wrong. Operation Austrans, which is conducted annually across Australian and New Zealand, shows positive drug screen results are down to less than two percent (Link). Additionally if you look at the latest NTI report (Link) we find the majority of HV accidents occur early in the week, this is counter intuitive to the fatigue management legislation and suggestive of big weekends being more exhausting than the job of driving trucks.

If Detective Inspector Rankin's figures are correct then either VicPol are getting very good at targeting recidivist drug users or Victorian junkies are a lot more stupid than the national average.

You quote DI Rankin as saying "To think that you can have a guy driving a semi-trailer for 16 hours a day without a break is ludicrous" and I'd be the first to agree with him but what he is saying isn't legally possible.

DI Rankin's final quote, "We know there are smaller operators who will just have two drivers taking turns to drive and sleep in the back of the truck and they just go hell for leather from Melbourne to Perth or wherever it is they need to get to", leaves me thinking he has little understanding of the industry or the relevant legislation, we call this "two up" and it's well provided for by the NHVR.

If you're interested in facts, rather than mythology and you're interested to better inform your readers please feel free to contact me or read my blog at DoaTD.com, we're not the singlet wearing heathens the media portrays us to be.

Regards,
Mat Dockerty