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Window into long-haul drivers’ lives

Book gives insight into truckies' attitudes, attributes, experiences and interactions, both positive and negative

By Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi | November 22, 2012

A new book based on conversations with truck drivers highlights the illegal drug use and roadside prostitution but shows that interstate truckies are no more likely to tap into such worlds than members of other professions.

Author and University of New England sociology lecturer
Jann Karp, who spent two years travelling with interstate truckies recording their conversations, has noted her experiences in Truckies: Life Behind the Wheel, which will be launched next month.

Karp has found that taking drugs is a personal choice and that many drivers know of others who use drugs regularly.

The majority interviewed expressed frustration at media coverage of illicit drugs within the transport industry and believe designated prevention programs are needed.

“The industry, in common in other work places, certainly has some serious issues to address but there needs to be more than a growing hurdle of regulations that effects the logistics of the industry and does virtually nothing to force addicted drivers to confront their addiction,” the book states.

“Instead, there is only a self-help aspect to these that tries to address the problem from within the industry.”

Some drivers use their truck to procure sexual liaisons, with many sex workers on truck routes in Western Australia being Aboriginal women.

“Some women who work ‘regular shifts’ in the truck stops’ restaurants will ‘go outside for a smoke’ and have sex with a driver [in the]
privacy of the truck,” it says.

“The extra cash tops up the waitress wages. These women are regarded in the truck stop serving the industry as ‘regulars’.

“Aboriginal women who knew I was doing research in the interstate trucking industry asked me to look at sex workers in their community and their use by truck drivers.

“They were concerned about the number of young girls getting into the trucks.”

Most of the 24 truck drivers that Karp joined on trips say they enjoy their job and would not change careers, she adds.

“I think that the men have a sense of freedom and independence,” she says.

“I think they’re certainly talented and viewed as maybe uneducated but certainly, having driven with them and watched them, I have seen the level of mathematics and filling out the log books.

“The thinking behind those processes around time, logistics, communication and safety issues are very complex when they’re all put together.

“These men are actually professionals, there is competency around the skills that are required that are actually quite hard and I don’t think a lot people could do it.”

Many drivers had been injured in the workplace and still work with chronic pain.

“Some of them were in physical pain; one fellow broke his back falling off a truck, Karp says.

“Others were missing fingers and had physical hearing loss from noise.”

While the majority of the drivers agree that the industry needs regulations, they don’t interpret the regulations as working with them or for them.

“They want the regulations, definitely, but they want them in a way that is practical and they certainly don’t perceive them as being introduced as practical people,” Karp says.

“There is, however, a constant discussion about the disparities’ between the reality of that which occurs on a daily basis and those making the rules.

“The gap, the conflict, the understanding, the bridge to reform is a constant presence in a truckie’s life.”

Some drivers choose to stay single due to the difficulties of the job, she adds.

“The family’s responsibilities are too hard, they say, and too much face-to-face and too much communication is required.

“What is the value for the family if the husband is not at home? What is the value for the husband, they ask as well?

“Sometimes middle age will shift priorities. Pressure on men, deadlines and obligations to work can increase depression and helplessness.

“Wives, unless supportive and understanding of the pressures of this working lifestyle can exacerbate the stress.”

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