SUFFOCATED by a neck tie and drowning in the daily grind, most blokes have pondered what life would be like piloting a big rig.
Ripping down a remote highway, music blaring and wind blasting away your worries; truck stops, testosterone, convoys, blue singlets and CB radios.
Truckies are real men, or so the movies would have us believe.
“Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, ‘Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it’,” Kurt Russell’s truckie character, Jack Burton, says in the classic film, Big Trouble in Little China.
But the reality of modern-day professional driving is far less quixotic.
Tarcutta’s truck drivers’ memorial is a reminder of the dangers inherent in the job.
Each day on average, a person is killed in Australia in a heavy vehicle accident.
Truckies are 15 times more likely to die on the job than workers in other industries.
It’s a sobering figure that underlines just how perilous a pursuit truck driving can be.
Those dangers are heightened by pressure to meet the impossible deadline.
In Wagga on Wednesday as part of a rolling protest, the Transport Workers’ Union laid much of the blame for the death toll squarely at the feet of supermarket giant Coles.
While Coles doesn’t directly employ drivers, the union claims its prohibitive market power means it is in a position to dictate to transport companies.
Its ability to control price, timing and destination has triggered a price war among trucking companies, the union says.
Those companies, in turn, are forced to make unreasonable demands on drivers to turn even a modest profit.
It’s a vicious cycle and it’s forcing drivers to take unconscionable risks.
Skipping breaks, speeding and working longer hours are an unavoidable part of many drivers’ shifts. Wagga, as a major transport hub, has some skin in this fight.
Big supermarkets may not have a legal obligation to these third party drivers. But they most certainly have a moral obligation to ensure the ripple effect of their actions doesn’t cost lives.
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