Another safety warning in today’s DomPost met National Ministerial indifference – shades of Kate Wilkinson and Pike River. Headlined “Truckies fear all roads lead to disaster,” Jon Morgan’s story starts off:
It’s the horror crash that will send shocking pictures of rural New Zealand flashing around the world. A truck and trailer overloaded with sheep drifts wide on a turn and crashes into a bus carrying schoolchildren. Bodies of dead and dying children and animals are strewn across the road.
That didn’t make it into the on-line story, which led the Business pages. Neither did the response to industry and union calls for from Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges, saying Australian legislation that comes into force on July 1st to promote safety and fairness in the road transport industry was not needed here because “New Zealand already has a system of work time requirements to help manage the risk of fatigue”.
You’d think they’d learn.
This came after Morgan’s story started:
The North Island stock transport industry is in crisis, according to truckies, with few if any companies making a profit in recent years and many drivers forced to work long hours in overloaded trucks.
The police say they are seeing grim consequences – a laden stock truck rolls at least once a month, spilling injured animals on to the road. Allegations are also being made of bribes to some stock agents to give an operator favourable treatment over others.
Inspector Gwynne Pennell of the police’s commercial vehicle investigation unit, is sympathetic to the drivers.
“They are driving on unforgiving roads; there’s no shoulders, just crumbling sides that give way. At the same time, the stock move around and the weight distribution changes. “These guys have to be masters. It takes only a slight miscalculation to end up with a pretty ugly situation.”
She says her staff are hearing disturbing stories when they stop drivers.
“They are working 70 hours a week for a minimal wage: $16-$17-$18 an hour. So when they start fudging that log book it’s not because they’re creaming the money off. “They’re struggling to get by.” Some work for companies that give more work to those drivers prepared to stretch the rules, she says.
The meat companies are also part of the problem with AFFCO driving the hardest bargains.
Another deregulated contract-based industry heading for front-page disaster. Congratulations to Jon Morgan for bringing the story to light. He is one of Fairfax’s best in my view.