It seems that despite the progress we’ve made in road transport safety due to chain of responsibility and the industry’s compliance, there are still parties within the chain that aren’t holding up their end of the deal. According to a leading regional operator, Steve Fieldus from Transforce, there are customers who abide by chain of responsibility laws and there are some that don’t.
According to Fieldus, a leading regional operator, some customers simply don’t care about chain of responsibility and their duty in it. He says we have a long way to go to improve customer management of driver fatigue.
Fieldus, a third generation, Dubbo-based truck driver, according to trucking website Fullyloaded.com.au, is a person that gives back to the trucking community from which he’s come. As managing director of Transforce, Mr Fieldus has built up the company from one truck 15 years ago to becoming a diversified and leading trucking company in New South Wales.
Operating at least 20 modern trucks and having a number of sub-contractors working with them, the company transports grain and fertiliser and other bulk agricultural goods, general freight and now dangerous goods and heavy machinery as well, putting them in a position to comment on the behaviour of their vast range of customers. In addition to his position in the company, fieldus is also on the board of NatRoad and president of Grain NSW.
The pioneering trucking director has some alarming opinions about client awareness in terms of chain of responsibility which he recently expressed.
Mr Fieldus recently stated that some clients aren’t aware of their role in chain of responsibility compliance and the ones that are, sometimes ignore their duties of care. He explained:
“They’re not aware enough about how much they are actually in the chain, and if they do realise that there in the chain somewhere, they just bury their head in the sand really,” Fieldus says.
“Not all, but a lot.”
“We have some major clients that are very professional in the way they ensure that we are compliant to our link in the chain under COR, but you have also got some clients who wouldn’t have a clue — and really don’t care, until something happens, and then they will deal with it.”
Mr Fieldus is also sceptical about the adoption of the chain of responsibility by the rural trucking community. In fact he says the concept is fairly foreign to customers in “the bush”.
Despite the fact that many customers still have to learn about the concept of Chain of Responsibility and others still need to do more to comply, there have been some improvements. One such improvement has been made in the area of setting unrealistic deadlines which he says isn’t really an issue anymore.
One problem that he says is still rampant is customer management of driver fatigue. He says this is one area that still requires a lot of attention. He went on to state:
“You can get to some of the sites and sit there for half a day before they will unload you, or before they will load you,” Fieldus laments.
“Or they don’t communicate that well that they have a problem at this site, so you arrive there and you can’t load or unload, so they either send you to another site or say ‘bad luck you will have to come back tomorrow’. How do you manage your business around that?
“If you are going to have a chain of responsibility, don’t just target one or two links in the chain. Are we going to the right links in the chain? Not always.”
As Mr Fieldus highlights everyone in the chain needs to be aware of their duty of care and how to comply, not just drivers and operators. Providing employees with training is the only sure way to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities and how to comply.