Every year representatives of those stopping our trucks involved in roadside inspections and maintenance compliance have to run the gauntlet and face up to questions from the floor at the TMC Conference held in Melbourne. The latest event saw the early signs of the changing nature of the relationship between poacher and game keeper.
There is nothing more likely to push the buttons of a trucking operator or truck workshop manager than for a roadside enforcement officer to tell them they are not doing their job right and are about to receive a warning or a fine, or a full inspection.
The representatives of the roadside agencies must be more than a little nervous standing up in front of a large group of these people, not sure of the nature of the feedback, and just how negative or aggressive it will be.
This year’s Australian Trucking Association TMC Conference was held in the Automotive Centre of Excellence in Kangan Batman TAFE in Melbourne’s Docklands and a full room greeted the representative of the various regulators quite warmly.
The heat has gone out of the relationship in the last few years. It is no longer regarded as OK for roadside officers to stand up and lecture the industry on its wrongdoings and insist on tarring all operators with the same brush. The old ‘if we find out you are doing the wrong thing, we’re going to do you for it’ is a thing of the past.
At the same time it is no longer acceptable for a roomful of trucking people to berate and intimidate the representatives of the authorities who police the industry, just because they have the temerity to stand up on stage and point out what trucking does wrong.
What’s changed? Basically the heat has been taken out of the topic by both sides of the fence dialling back the rhetoric and actually listening to the other side of the story. Operators are talking more proactively to the authorities and the authorities have become a lot more conciliatory and have cut back on the lecturing tone.
These TMC discussions have been going on for quite a few years now and have been part of the reconciliation process. Operators and enforcement officers have got to know each other better and had a drink together at the TMC’s awards night, always a good way to take the sting out of an argument.
Another factor is the emergence of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. This organisation chose from the outset to stay well away from the adversarial attitude often adopted by state authorities. There’s has been a lot more inclusive attitude in their dealings with the trucking industry.
Now, the NHVR actually have some skin in the game as well. The organisation now runs the roadside enforcement in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Victoria. New South Wales is coming on board later this year.
If experience is anything to go by the attitude and culture within enforcement when the NHVR is in charge is much changed. Often it’s the same personnel pulling the trucks over, but the interaction with the trucking industry has become much smoother, with fewer bumps.
At the 2019 TMC one speaker who personified this was a seasoned regular Russell Greenland, who was at the time Manager of Melbourne Metropolitan Region for VicRoads, but is now part of the NHVR fold as the NHVR have taken over the enforcement role in Victoria. In the previous year he spoke forcefully about breaches and outlined issues his officers caught by the side of the road, this time around we saw a much softer approach from a roadside veteran. He has obviously been drinking the NHVR kool aid.