It’s a tough job to respond to the law and to customer demands, but it needs to be done, says Mainfreight CEO Don Braid.
Some truckers say they illegally work up to 120 hours a week and say they are put in an impossible situation by their employers.
Truck drivers aren’t legally allowed to work more than 13 hours a day, or 70 hours a week, but many do, say three drivers who Thing agreed not to name because they feared for their work.
Hours are either tracked by the driver in a paper logbook or checked using an electronic logbook, a voluntary system that many companies do not use.
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Mainfreight chief executive Don Braid said the company was very strict on the rules and worked closely with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency on managing logbooks and driving hours.
“The law is the law, and we work hard every day to make sure we’re within what the law requires, as well as to meet the demands of our customers – and it’s not easy, by the way, but it’s something you need to make sure you’re on top of. “
The company worked hard with branch managers to ensure that deliveries, especially longer ones, were handled so that drivers could complete them within the legal deadlines. If a driver couldn’t finish a race on time, he had to park, he said, and rest somewhere.
Some of the owner-drivers have combined on the longer trips.
“It’s fatigue that causes problems, and that’s not where we want our guys to be for their own safety and the safety of other road users.”
He said that many transport companies will be under enormous pressure from customers.
“Particularly where the industry probably has supply chain congestions like we’ve never seen before, and there’s tremendous pressure from customers to deliver a product that was probably late due to international delays, and there is no doubt that these customers are putting companies under pressure.
“But at the end of the day we have to do it safely and if we can’t deliver it on time within the legal opening hours … then I’m afraid we’re late.”
The company was in the process of introducing an electronic journal based on its existing systems in vehicles.
Mainfreight focused on taking care of its staff, and people could raise issues freely, he said.
“None of us have an office, and it’s this lack of bureaucracy, a flat management structure to make sure everyone is heard. If they have a problem, they can raise their hand and fix it. “
Customer inquiries and delays are partly responsible for the pressure on truck drivers to work more than 13 hours a day, said Nick Leggett, Managing Director of the Road Transport Forum.
Leggett said the forum did not condone or defend truck drivers and drivers who willfully or negligently break the law.
The fear expressed by truck drivers for their jobs if they spoke about an employer could be attributed to pressure from customers, he said.
“It’s a very competitive industry with very low margins and there is an attitude of many customers, they will just take what we give them, and I think we have to fight and assert ourselves a little more and that will improve the things for Everyone. “
Pressure from customers included trucks being held up during loading and unloading, or the closing of a pickup area that was supposed to be open.
There was to be an immediate response when drivers raised concerns with regulator Waka Kotahi, he said.
“There has to be an open door for people to report them, but we have to take a bigger view and look at some of the reasons why this is happening. This is how we are actually going to eliminate the problem.
The forum supported the gradual introduction of electronic logbooks with GPS. Better tools for signaling to the regulator which companies and drivers are complying and which are not also needed, Leggett said.
“We want the chain of custody law to apply, and potentially to strengthen, because often truckers are the weakest link in the chain, and they have all the pressure and all the responsibility falls to them.
“What is happening is the trucks are bouncing around and are really at the mercy of the people who are on either end of their delivery, and a lot of their day is defined by the decisions other people make.”
According to Waka Kotahi, the chain of custody holds accountable all those who influence driver behavior and compliance – including customers and company executives – if that influence results in a violation of traffic rules and laws.
A person convicted of a chain of custody offense can be fined up to $ 25,000.
The forum had raised the idea of a transport agreement, covering all transport operators, with Transport Minister Michael Wood.
“The purpose of the agreement would be to strengthen accountability, build training capacity and coordinate across government. It would also be looking at how the industry is structured to see if we can improve that, so that we are better able to partner with regulators.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said he was keen to work closely with the forum and other industry players, and asked officials for more information on a deal.