race to the bottom
infuriating thing about the trucking industry is that it's one of those
quiet never-ending tragedies that polite society politely ignores",
Old Possum said. "This business of owner-drivers fired-up on yippie
beans, driving twenty hours at a stretch has been a reality for decades".
had come up to the office to give me a hand on some work for the Motor
Accident Authority's inquiry into the long-haul trucking industry. He
had done a bit of driving himself in the old days, before the owner-driver
nightmare began, and he'd stayed in touch with a lot of people in the
look at these statistics", I said. "At least 138 drivers who
were covered by the Transport Workers Union super scheme suicided between
1995 and 98. That's ten per cent of all claims. And they reckon it may
be as high as 30 per cent ... how do you tell if somebody deliberately
drives straight into the wall?"
truck driving is a sweatshop on wheels. It's the living, breathing,
proof that the capitalist workplace is a race to the bottom unless it's
always a pool of under-employed owner-drivers out there with huge mortgages
on their trucks and homes. There's always more of them being tempted
into the industry. What hope have the poor silly buggers got? Of course
they're going to work for peanuts, clock up more mileage than an airline
pilot and do more white powder than you'd put in a washing machine.
always somebody willing to make a big buck out of glamourising the bullshit:
glossy trucking magazines and dumb country and western songs. Three
days on the road and we'll make it home tonight ... Daddy was a Whore
and Mummy was a truck-drivin' Man ... We got a Convoy.
there are radio 'personalities' who extol the lifestyle; gibbering on
about the truckie as a heroic independent battler, making it on his
own. They don't like dwelling on the ones who don't make it home. The
grim reality is ghastly accidents involving bigger and bigger trucks,
and the worst slavedrivers seem to be the supermarket chains. It's something
to think about next time you pick up a few interstate tomatoes down
at the mall.
took a break and strolled down to the park with the papers. It was a
bright, clear, day and the magpies were carolling in the big old blue
gum as we sat in the sun on the old park bench reading the papers.
Old Possum said: "Think about this. The first Concorde crash in
thirty years kills 103 people and it fills the papers for days. But
in 1998, 179 Australians died in 151 truck-related accidents and the
media hardly notices.
it says here that after the Concorde crash a German Catholic bishop
asked: 'God, where were you in Paris? Why have you deserted us?', but
I can't remember the last time a holy man railed like that against the
annual trucking toll. The Concorde crash is part of the Big Drama of
Life, but the trucking deaths are just background noise."
was right. If you go out in a blaze of gasoline, you'll be long remembered
if you're a rich German retiree in a flying anachronism, but if you're
a young owner-driver in a big rig keeping tomatoes on the supermarket
shelf, you'll get a few of column centimetres in the Newcastle Herald.