15th August 2018. Listening to the same story in a different place.

TIV-Logo jpegTRUCK That Australia Drivers Club logo

I am in Columbus Ohio and have just had dinner, walked to a local supermarket for supplies for meals tomorrow and on the way back spoke with a local Police Officer, parked in a servo. I asked him did he have much to do with trucks and he said no. I said there are quite a few round here, using the motels etc and he agreed, but again, said they did not have any trouble with the trucks.

I then asked about the rust I see in a percentage of cars and do they do inspections? “No, they used to many years ago, but not now” he said. It seems you can drive it till it dies and many do. In a rest area last week, I am nearly sure the thin cargo strap around the ute body, could have been all that was holding the thing together and would have taken a photo, but the fellow inside may have taken offence.

I hear broken exhausts, brakes rubbing as cars drive past and see the rust, through mudguards and over wheels and under doors, often all together on one vehicle, at least a number of times a day and even in the big cities. When I told the officer we would not be even allowed out the gate like that, he said ”Oh really, MMMM”.

I then walked up to a trucker and his wife and another driver. I said I had two questions, the first is that I don’t see many Western Stars? He said they are around and Western Star is owned by Freightliner and it is like the difference between a Chev and a Cadillac (basic and luxury) and he had this truck built for him in 2017. He was too long to legally pull his 3 pup (28 foot trailers each with dolly at front and single axle at rear) in his 379 Pete on the Ohio and other turnpikes (read freeways) and so he bought this and went from 4 and a half MPG to over 7, but he also now does 1500 revs at 73 MPH with a 12 speed auto against the 18 speed manual, the gear fast run slow ethic gaining more and more momentum.

The second was my basic question, “What is your biggest safety concern on the highway” and this is where the title comes in. For all intents and purposes, he could have been as Aussie truckie with all of his comments, bar one. “Car drivers are the biggest problem, you leave a space and they fill it. I had a friend have a car pull in front not leaving enough room and he hit the car, the car driver told the Police “I was just sitting here at the lights waiting to turn and the truck hit me”, the trucker gave the police his dash cam and all was sorted quickly.” I said I too have heard that story and do you know that the idea of recording cars to protect us, because no one would believe a car driver would be so stupid (don’t we wish) was first done by an Australian Truckdriver.

He said he is going to get a camera soon and then we went onto my trip and why etc. I told him I think the UK lorry drivers are worse off as they have no one working for them and asked about here. He is a member of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and believes they are trying, but they are fighting the government, who all know better and are happy to tell us how to do our job, whether they could or not. I have emailed OOIDA with no luck, the emails bounce, but do plan to catch up with them at GATS.

What about truckers? Yes there is that too, not being trained properly and the public think this is the easiest job in the world, yet say when they get the chance to see things from our side, who would do that job?

He went on “These ELDs are forcing blokes to drive tired, they don’t allow for traffic etc, blokes are pushing from the minute they start the clock and no one else cares about us.” “I wish we could all get together and shut down for a week” and I said as I have before, I have more chance flying to the moon in your truck and he agreed. I then explained those who have advocated blockades in Australia will simply be pushed off the road by the authorities and that unless you have two important things, someone or a group the industry will stand behind and a short list of both, problems and solutions, the government will simply laugh at you.

He then spoke of a lack of rest areas, Police in some states who will write up drivers for parking on freeway ramp shoulders, no excuses accepted at all. The fact that the industry is simply there now for revenue, as the authorities are not getting it like they used to and on one occasion, when pulled up by a trooper, who could find nothing wrong with the truck, then wanted his logs and seemed to get very annoyed when he could find nothing wrong. Our trucker said, “Isn’t that how it is supposed to be?” but the officer clearly had the bothers, that he could not write him a ticket.

California not being just a different state, but a different country etc and whilst I had said to him after the first five minutes, can I go and get my video camera, you are saying all I have heard, but altogether and quite well, but he was not keen. While he works for a broker, the trailer had a name that some would know in Australia from many years ago in that section of the industry and I was holding them up as they were about to go and eat.

I apologised and then he asked me about, you guessed it, our roadtrains. They do have what we would call a roadtrain (and I mistakenly labelled the two or three short trailer combos as turnpike doubles previously, yet it seems as here as at home, where you are changes what something means), but they pull two 53 foot trailers as turnpike doubles in the USA (or as Heavy Goods Vehicles HGVs, in Canada) and with their long trucks, would well exceed our 36.5 metres. They talk in miles here and I can cope with that, but weights in pounds still has me thinking about conversions, and normally by then the driver is on the next comment.

So a wrap up to this point of the trip. Truckdrivers biggest problem on the roads are car drivers who do not, or have never been taught, to understand trucks. There is a much smaller problem with other truck drivers, but it is there and is growing. Electronic Logs (ELDs) are putting more pressure on many and not all are coping. Some have no problem with them and it seems this is largely due to the type of work and or where you run and or, who you work for.

The ELDs have exacerbated the lack of rest areas in some states and I have seen a site yesterday on a four lane highway where you can access it from both directions, yet there is a slow down lane barely big enough for a single car on the opposite side and none at all on the rest area side and traffic in a 70 MPH zone, has to nearly stop in the lane to enter the rest area and or cross the road and traffic drives back and forth across the highway with barely a car length between sides. This in a state that also has a rest area with a near mansion for a toilet block and acres of gardens around it, that you would be proud to have in a show place.

My Western Star friend did say he thought the government was being driven by certain groups baying about road safety, but the trucking industry was not being given its voice and certainly not the drivers and the government will follow the loudest noise.
In the theme of good news which must of course be a good way to end this, when sitting on the balcony with my new friend Bruce at his home in Toronto Canada and having a beer, my first for the trip, I got a call to say I had not been successful in my bid to win funding for more Green Reflector Informal Truck Bays. Now to be fair I have just got the Newell done and I will both say thanks to NHVR for their help and support in achieving that and look forward to doing some press in that regard when I return.

However, the next call was from my partner in all things trucking in Australia, Stephen from Whiteline Television and http://www.truckingnation.com.au to say he had been successful in winning funding for us to do the TRUCKIES TOP TEN TIPS (for sharing the road with trucks) on video. Our aim is to do it professionally and make it available to all road authorities as a resource, so that new drivers will see and hopefully recognise some of our issues when they get on the road as well as making it available to all others who can use it to teach or simply, to see our side of things. I have been promoting these tips for nearly 20 years now and have had some terrific comments and support, but it has been a long time coming to be able to do it in such a way and with Stephens incredible and professional talent with a camera, I know it will be top notch.

Congratulations to all others who have been successful with projects and I hope each and every one of these, helps to improve road safety for all Australians. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

9th August 2020. What a couple of days, plus a video for the public.

Goodaye all. Thursday and Friday may well turn out to be at the top of the, lousy days at work, up to this time. In Brisbane Thursday, a fun place to deliver at the start of the day, double split and so drop one trailer, go and deliver it, go back to the safe place to drop trailers, drop that trailer, pick up the other, go back with it and again, back in off a road with cars parked either side, then down a driveway and then have to unload one side at a time, as it was too narrow to unload either side in one place. A lovely, but my age, so bloody old gent, that was not in any rush to unload me. I was asked by the younger fellow, why aren’t you in a hurry? Most of your blokes are often saying they will run out of hours.

I had time then, but did have someone coming to meet me to look at something on the truck and did have to put him back a bit. Worse, what I hoped would solve a problem and give me back my cruise control, did not work, so still to be resolved, along with not being able to do a burn. But thanks for your effort in trying to solve the problem, it is much appreciated.

Then nearly 6 hours in total, (the fellow loading when I got there at 1.40PM had been there since 10.30 in the morning and had just started loading) so waiting, then loading and painfully watching a young bloke learn on a forklift, then after finally being loaded and now dark, have to move up and climb up and down a tall ladder 20 odd times to strap the whole load down in the dark. No lights there on one side and trying to throw straps through a very small gap while on said ladder.

We must do it all safely mustn’t we and I did lodge a concern with both the lack of light and the adjacent light, which did not light where I was working, but kept going on and off, so one minute I could see something and then nothing. Winter is still upon us in places, yet I was wet with sweat when finished. I had rang and said I will not meet the timeslot in the morning after just starting to load at 4PM. I will see what happens and of course, when I finally left after 7PM, everyone else was long gone home.

Just managed to get tea at Fisher Park, they were getting ready to close, but I rang ahead and got in scoffed tea down, though they told me don’t rush, but they were good enough to look after me, I did not want to delay them anymore. It did mean I was too late for a shower and could not really give up any more time, I was hungry so was getting a feed no matter what, but wanted to try and meet my new given arrival time.

Of course on arrival and later than I had suggested and having been told I had to reload with a product that is not very friendly to tautliner curtains, just a bit worse than what I had on already, so already not really in a “Oh I love this job”, frame of mind, it started to rain. It started each time I had to unload or reload (oh and can I mention another double split to unload etc spot) and stopped while waiting, so I got good and wet a few times. Then there was an issue that I am yet to find out what the ramifications will be, partly my fault and partly a combination of others and of unusual circumstances.

But I made it home Friday night, for it to rain again as I dropped my trailers. Now there are blokes with harder jobs, worse freight and in these times, suffering trying to deal with border issues, not being treated human as per some Facebook posts I have seen and I am normally pretty passionate about my job generally and the industry as well. I love what I do most of the time, but nothing is always or forever perfect.

To those worse off and you only have to listen to those suffering in Victoria, whether affected by the shutdown, the virus, or the other essential workers dealing with those so affected, I am not the worst off by a long shot. But to those of you who have said they had no idea what our job is like, I simply want you to understand it is not just get in the truck, drive and then get out and then get in and drive again.

I want some of the public to understand not this complexity, nor see me as a whinging truckie, so will attach a video hoping to help them see and recognise our contribution. If you agree (and you will have to accept some wind noise, it was getting dark and cold and my daughter “Thank you love” had better and warmer things to do) please comment and or share. I really think we have lost a chance to show the public our lives and perhaps gain some empathy for our jobs, others could do this much better and more professionally than I can, but have not, so I felt I had to at least, give it a try. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

2nd August 2020 It is up to you.

Goodaye all. It is two days off my 63rd birthday and I am going to ask you all for a present. This will not cost you any money, it will not come to me or change my life in any way, but if you are a truck driver or involved in the road transport industry, it may change yours, hopefully for the better, sometime in the future. I want you to do two things for me for my birthday. I will even give you a choice.

You can watch or listen to all the submissions to the current Senate Inquiry into a Safe and Viable Road Transport Industry, or you can read the RIS for the again current, review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). Once you have done either (but by all means do both), then you have another choice.

If you agree with a particular point or suggestion and think it will make the roads safer and your job easier (please note which I have put first) then make a submission yourself to support and or even expand on why. If you don’t agree, or think you have a better solution, then do something about it, NOW!!!!!

When I was on my Churchill Fellowship trip and in the USA, the FMCSA there was seeking submissions towards changing their Hours of Service (HOS). I made a submission and whilst it may not have changed the course or been the most relevant, I did contribute to something that can affect other truckies.

The following is from an online piece, Overdrive Extra, 31st July, “FMCSA is Listening, Share your views and make a difference” by Gary Buchs.

The regulatory process inevitably angers some individuals. But getting mad only serves to divide people who could work together and seek solutions for problems.

Predictably, as soon as the new hours of service changes were announced, the loudest voices came from people complaining before they have even had a chance to utilize the new adjustments that will take effect Sept. 29.

These new rules were developed after FMCSA invited input over many months, drawing approximately 2,800 submitted comments. That’s no small number, yet millions of CDL holders and transportation stakeholders could have responded. But they ignored not only the opportunity, but arguably a business responsibility.

Accept that you, the silent majority, can get involved, and this safety summit is a perfect opportunity. It will be held in a virtual setting 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. FMCSA said there will be a “brief public comment period in the mid to late afternoon.” You can register for that open forum, as well as other sessions, here.

This is a chance to increase the number of people commenting from 2,800. Can you imagine what the effect could be if even 1% of the 3.9 million CDL holders — 39,000 people — spoke up?

We are not all going to agree on every detail, but improvements are needed and possible.

Does any of this read familiar to you? How many times have you sat in a roadhouse and heard blokes whinge and whine about what is wrong with the industry and what should be done to fix it? How many of those blokes either don’t know of this chance to have a say or who will simply not bother. For my birthday present, I want you to contribute and I want you to tell others to do so as well. If you want to buy me a new Kenworth as well, I won’t stop you, but we have a chance, it may not be the only one ever, but it may be the best we will have for sometime.

Some people finally are recognising that WE NEED TRUCKS so they can eat, live and work, that we do not all drive round all day empty, because we have nothing better to do with our time. Suddenly they are aware that without trucks they will have no food, no clothes, no fuel or parts for their car etc and we must do something to capitalise on this, because after all this is over one day we hope, we will be forgotten again.

We are perceived to be all as bad as the one bloke who does the wrong thing, whether that is tailgating or abusing a car or caravanner, or if they kill someone in a crash because they were a bad driver and none of us are perfect, but most of us go to work to finish another trip safely and to get home to a family we see too little of. This side is never considered nor recognised by far too many of those we try and share the road with to deliver their stuff for them.

Now I recognise not all of you have the time or the inclination to sit at home watching hours of video of people talking and most would have better things to do I am sure. Having found a way to convert the video to audio and then put on thumbdrive and listen in the truck, I have spoken with Steve Corcoran and suggested he do the work for you and make all the videos available as audio so more likely more of you can access and listen. He was hoping to do so ASAP.

I’m sorry I cannot condense and make it easier for you all to read the RIS for the HVNL, but all who have done the reading of hundreds of pages and then responded in kind with hundreds more, have done much of the work for you and you can now read and respond to the condensed version, so from where I sit, no excuse to do nothing.

I have contributed to the HVNL, 7 written submissions, attended one meeting in Brisbane and with both written and attending Albury for the Senate inquiry. I had to leave after my submission as I was on my way to Melbourne to deliver that day and last week-end spent sometime downloading many of the submissions and converting them to MP3 so I could listen in the truck during the week. I could not justify spending hours listening at home, so instead of audio books this week, I listened to many and have now found the others and added them so I can listen to the balance this week.

Should you read or listen to any of my submissions, you will hear me ask for both a National Road Standard and a National Rest Area Strategy and so you know I am not asking you to do something while I sit back and dream of the next TIV, I am working on both of those documents and plan to submit them next month to both, as well as anyone who I can pester with them.

So you can completely ignore this and me, or you can do something for yourself and other drivers. IT IS UP TO YOU! Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

26th July 2020 National Freight Guidelines.

Goodaye all. I do welcome some high level discussions that aim to simplify and streamline border crossings for trucks. It would have been nice if we had been thought of more at the start and recognised for the service we provide to all Australians. Of course, the way things are going, it may be too little and or too late for those who have lost hours waiting in ques to get there and deliver the freight needed for peoples’ lives to continue.

This of course, completely ignores the cost in time and money, transport companies have wasted, chasing details and then having to keep doing so as it kept changing, aiming to comply with differing requirements for each state. You would think we lived in Europe and in different countries, instead of just different states of Australia!

Update from email just now, the new guidelines from the Australian Government, Protocol for Domestic Border Controls – Freight Movements have just been released and look to provide some basis for a national and co-ordinated set of guidelines for all states to hopefully agree to and implement. Let’s see?

I was asked by a journalist about how truckies could be a problem, travelling from state to state as many of us do. Yes, there is a risk, as in every part of life, but of all the essential services, we are the most isolated and least involved with close contact with others. Health workers caring for those in need must be close, many others work in closed offices (unless they can work from home) but for those in retail and other services, they often deal with people close up.

Yes we have to deal with those where we load and unload, but more often than not, it is outside and in the open or at least, definitely not, in confined spaces as such. Once that is done, we are alone and on the road, yet again. Yes we need fuel and food, but again, one of the problems we have, is you simply can’t park your b-double anywhere within cooee of a supermarket most of the time, so not only is it harder and more costly to obtain food and live on the road, it is hard to do so healthily.

We too have to comply and use common sense in our dealings. We need to consider the contact we have and minimise the close contact where and when we can. Some have said we should be tested and I have been temperature tested at some sites and have no problem with this, but being held at a border while we wait for testing, could see many drivers left without food or supplies and so far, I have not seen or heard of any suggestion to offer testing at roadhouses, even for those who want to check.

I took part in a phone hook up Monday towards improving driver health, this being done by OzHelp and funded by NHVR, First discussion was about sleep, what problems there are in getting good quality sleep, what can be done etc. It went for over an hour and notes were taken and a list of issues and suggestions tabled. There will be more such discussions and I have followed up with some rest area info.

Last week-end I also chased two well apart but current informal and dirt bays that truckies use to try and get access to supermarkets. I got one reply, have again responded asking for further info and support, citing our issues and why such sites are so valuable and needed by us.

The Senate Inquiry took further oral submissions in Brisbane Friday and whilst I could not listen in, I do aim to find the time to hear what was said by those who took the time and made the effort to contribute. I am told you can still make a written submission and that there will be further chances for oral in person submissions, in other states. If you do not contribute and tell the authorities what is wrong, how will they know what is needed to fix anything?

I am still trying to get a culvert fixed 20k south of Forbes after a number of emails. They put up “Rough Surface” signs, so at least someone else knows it could hurt, I said that is not enough. They said they would do a patch, that did not fix it either and so I asked again to have it fixed as I believed it was a road hazard. Initially I was told it could not be fixed till September. Any of you know of the bump and believe it warrants urgent repair, next time you hit it, call 131700 and put in a complaint, maybe with a few more, we can get it fixed. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

19th July 2020 Borders and Roads.

Goodaye all. Biggest issues of the week, delays at the border into NSW at Albury, seemingly just for fun and our roads. Why trucks were sent into Grass Tree parking bay for fun coming northbound out of Melbourne when we were separated from cars and allowed to remain on the highway at Beveridge (though I believe this was changed later) and then qued with all the cars and then let through after queuing for no reason at Albury, seemed to fly in the face of all the comments that trucks would not be unduly delayed.

Half an hour or more qued with all the cars, to then be simply let through, seemed to simply be bad traffic management. I have spoken with the ATA and hope they will have had some more access to and weight, with the authorities. If they want to stop us or inspect some, then do so if you must, but don’t hold every truck up for nothing and then let them through.

Surely we have enough trouble with having all the states wanting to be different, must they play games and simply keep this up instead of at the very least, agreeing on one type or set of forms for border crossings. Yes it came hard and fast, this infection, yes they made mistakes as we do, but it is not hard to work out surely.

One of the things I have a problem with is where our roads money goes. Do we get good value from it and whilst you and I must comply to the absolute letter of the law, who holds large corporations to account for the roads and the failures. The new overtaking lane south of Peak Hill failed within two weeks. We did not damage it by driving over it, it damaged our trucks by failing, yet will we be expected to pay for it again and then will they want more money from us for “damaging” this bit of “road”.

No one will be foolish enough to either guarantee or deny, that all the money we pay for the use of and supposed wear and tear caused by trucks, goes into the roads. How much or what percentage does, we will probably never know, but much is siphoned off into consolidated revenue. Now that may be for important things like hospitals and schools, but that is not what it is intended for, nor are we told, charged for.

We are a service industry, yes a few companies even make a profit, but every cost to us increases the cost of transport to those outside of capital cities where they have much better roads and simply it seems, few recognise what roll transport plays in the life of all Australians, particularly those away from major centres.

Until two things happen, we, those who use the roads for work and to deliver that service to all Australians, will be short changed, overcharged and still have to travel on roads that risk our lives. We will never have, nor do I expect, perfect smooth roads everywhere. I have said before and will again, we have a large country and a small population, but we must get good value, we must get the best roads we can afford and we must all be able to travel on them as safely as possible. Do You Agree???

So why must I spend hours every week making lists of road failures, ringing and emailing road authorities asking them to fix things? Perhaps some think they are the only people I ring and take offence, none is intended from me. Perhaps they think I have no right to complain. Perhaps they think their road crews know better than those of us who have to drive on these roads day after day when they are not up to standard, where failures risk our lives, destroy our vehicles, damage our bodies and increase our risk and our fatigue, again when they don’t need rest areas, so they are not important enough to answer questions on either.

Am I pissed off, you bet. Five years asking for one section south of Yelarbon to be fixed, major failures near roadworks where millions was wasted and is now being done again south of Aratula, rest areas lost everywhere, made worse when told will be returned to previous at Warrill View and culverts on the Newell south of Forbes that try to tear the steer axle out of the truck, to be told in might be fixed months away.

Again, I offer any who wish to dispute my claims to show me I am wrong, to tell me they understand or care and have done something about it. Come for a trip and I will change your views.

The two things we need? To recognise the road as our workplace and to have a National Road Standard, agreed to by all and mandated that it must be maintained and that there be value for the money spent, not millions in profits for those who do the work, but don’t have to LIVE ON THE ROAD.

Ending on a positive note, two new videos, Caravans and Roadtrains and Part Two Facilities released this week. You can view them here Part 1 – https://vimeo.com/403558192

Part 2 – https://vimeo.com/406836007 or at http://www.sharetheroad.net.au If you agree with the content, please share them with your friends and contacts. If we even prevent one crash and maybe even save a life, it will have cost you nothing more than a minute of your time, to help achieve such a marvellous outcome. Thanks and Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

12th July 2020 Passengers and meetings.

Goodaye all. Well the border issues have made a big week more worrysome, yet in the end did not cause any of the drama it seemed would occur. However it seems, not only can they not give thought first and then put out something so people can deal with it, they must put out something with big gaps, forgetting certain people and how they live and operate on the road. Then they change it every day, just to make it bloody near impossible to know what the hell you have to do and then for good measure, let’s make it different for each state!

I do understand from where I sit, we are all under enormous pressure to fix this today, but a bit of thought and consultation will often give a better outcome. Please talk to us and our associations first. I was involved in a Zoom meeting with the NHVR and some owner drivers and all agreed the NHVR website which has compiled all the border issues and requirements in one place was well done and hopefully will help many. If in doubt, check the NHVR site and if you find a further problem, please let them know.

I raised some issues, one driver had to wait three hours to get a logbook, so getting them could be improved, particularly in Brisbane and Sydney when you are in a truck. COR still fails to get to any others than the driver who is still seemingly the only one swinging and being hit, at the end of the chain.

I had the Director, Transport Economic Reform, Land Transport Market Reform Branch, Infrastructure Investment Division, Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities do a trip with me over three days. He drove to Dubbo, we left in the TIV Sunday and travelled to Toowoomba where he went to a motel late that night. I unloaded Monday morning and then we travelled down the Toowoomba bypass, him having read my extensive and detailed list of things I was not happy about (and which TMR have all but ignored) into Brisbane. There I showed him how we can get stuffed about when freight is not yet available for pick up, not sure who I can blame, we just had to wait for a few hours. We then reloaded and bounced our way out the Cunningham Highway and on to Narrabri, a motel for him and Hotel Kenworth for me, before completing the trip back to Dubbo Tuesday.

There has been much discussion about how we pay for roads, the fact that we need a better way to do so and there has been even more concern from the transport industry how we will fare. This problem is not limited to Australia, with the US having had to do last minute funding for their roads over the last few years and also looking to new ways to pay for their extensive highway network.

The industry has been arguing that how we pay now, via rego and fuel, particularly that obviously the more fuel you use, the more tax you pay, covers user pays to some extent. Others disagree. My view is that the biggest problem is that what we pay is not used only for roads, that we are not damaging the roads as is often used against us, that we provide a transport service to all Australians and that until we have better roads and the money charged to us for using them, actually goes to make us safe on those roads, then we won’t be happy to pay even higher possible charges.

It is the roads that damage the trucks, the drivers and then the roads. If they are smooth, imperfections and failures are repaired quickly and to a high standard, then we are safe in our workplace and we will pay for a good safe road. Have you ever heard the phrase, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This is our roads and until they are built and repaired up to a standard, then we will continue to suffer damage to trucks, drivers and the roads themselves.

We do have a large country and a small population, so we cannot have perfect roads everywhere. But who ensures we get good value for our roads. Yes we are getting work done on the Newell, which has waited a long time for serious funding, yet even with the new overtaking lanes, we have not been consulted, many are on long flat stretches of road where we could overtake anyway, instead of sections where car drivers get frustrated and then do something stupid, risking our lives and theirs. In the Pilliga they are building one not far south from the biggest incline, WHY? The one just completed south of Peak Hill has been completed less that a month and has failed badly already.

We did not break it, so why should we pay for it to be fixed again and what life will it have if it doesn’t last one month? I have also contacted RMS re the section south from Boggabilla, asking will the informal rest areas be retained. I complained when they “improved” (but made worse by changing the camber, making it smaller and also making it so we cannot now get to the shade of the trees on site near Letterbox Road) but have not had a reply to either contact.

Until we can see the money we pay going into roads and we be certain we are not just giving large profits to companies to fix roads time after time, we will not be happy with the value we do not get now. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.
 

5th July 2020 Part two. Roadtrain Triple to Darwin.

Goodaye all. Big week for green reflectors on Facebook this week, they got an enormous airing on caravan sites. The fellow who runs the Truck Friendly Facebook page put up a post, suggesting green reflector bays could be a good spot for a vanner to slow, pull into and then allow a truck to pass. He did show a photo of one enroute from Bundaberg which was a very wide paved shoulder, perhaps even ideal for what he suggested. However not all GRBs are paved, many are dirt and even then, some don’t have perfect edges, but can still be suitable for our needs, when formal bays are too few and far between.

He had put up posts before about the GRBs, but without the “getting us past”, suggestion, though with little responce. This time it went beserk, many shares and many comments of what a good idea, should be across Australia etc. Ken did call me to let me know (as did many others, thanks all) and I did reply to many comments and also put up some posts with further explanation. Ken too came back and explained further, detailing (after we talked about the photo and site he used in the original post) not all are paved, some may not be suitable, though not all may have seen these extra details.

In this second photo of the dirt bay, you can clearly see the skidmarks where a truck has seen the bay at the last second (most likely before the green reflectors were fitted) and tried to stop. There are guidelines for the sites that require good line of site, safe entry and exit, suitable surface and big enough for a vehicle using that road to fit and be clear of the road etc, so not just any bit of dirt is marked.

This site may well suit a caravan pulling over to let a truck get past and again, if this is simply an extra use that helps one driver or prevents one crash or even near miss, then I am happy to have started the idea and to see it even better utilised. All we need now is for it to become national. I did do a radio interview during my roadtrain trip last week and raised the idea there, as I have in every state in the past, but I cannot contact every district in every state and even if I could, I can only then ask, “Do you know of the Green Reflector Marking of Informal Truck Bays?” Someone much higher up needs to push it along.

There were some truckies replied, some were fair, please don’t use the sites for camping etc, some were rude, ridiculous and or over the top. Ken came back again detailing he had not suggested they were for camping, they must be left for trucks, but that both TMR Qld and RMS NSW confirmed they are not just for trucks in a legal sense. In such cases, a fair and reasoned reply will always work better than abuse. Telling vanners to “STAY OUT OF OUR BAYS” etc might make you feel good, but will often do more harm than good and we are supposedly in the good books now, so why be a dick about it.

Anyone who took more than one minute to read any of the original post or the extended updates must agree the idea of letting vanners know about the sites and suggesting if seen, they call up a truck which is following and then help us get around them, or even if they need to stop instead of in the middle of nowhere, can only be a possible benefit. Anything that helps us both to share the road safely must be accepted in that vain. There were of course some vanners who said, “Why should I move over” or “Will the trucks move over for us” and both of these comments show some people care little of others on the road, or simply don’t have a clue.

I started the idea of GRBs and have no problem with the suggestion such bays, if suitable, be used to allow a vanner to pull over to let us past. If one or two use them instead of stopping in a dangerous spot (and again I imagine you will agree some stop in bloody dangerous places without sufficient thought for their own safety, let alone that of others) then that is simply a bonus use.

Any of you who travel across past Broken Hill or north from Port Augusta may see some new GRB sites in those areas. If this flap and the extra interviews Ken did following the exposure helps us to get GRBs across the nation, then again, I welcome that exposure.

So to complete the Darwin trip story. Owner Driver had been aware of the trip and asked me to consider the differences pulling a triple to a double. There had been a major study, from memory it had cost a lot of money, that said you must not steer the truck subject to what the back (third) trailer did. This was my first triple and when I got to Darwin and spoke with Owner Driver (whilst having a meal supplied at the Simon depot, thanks it was excellent) I said that within the first 50 k, you learn very quickly to deliberately minimise the movement of the steering wheel, because if you don’t, you invoke even worse sway of the back trailer. “You worked out in half an hour, what a major study costing thousands took weeks to do”, was the comment.

My reply was that any driver would do so. My partner for the trip had also been doing it for years and whilst as I said he had been not so happy to see me at the start, he soon found I was a fulltime driver, not a journalist who drove only for stories. I don’t recall any specific instruction from him, but I imagine he had been watching me like a hawk from the start. He of course would be sleeping while I was driving and for many, unless you have confidence in your two-up partner, it can be vey difficult to sleep in a moving truck.

Instead of a major study, what they should have done was simply asked those who had been pulling triples and anyone of them would have been able to save them a lot of money. That is the problem, we as an industry never get asked and even rarer, get to contribute to things that affect us in our jobs on the road, our workplace which they will not recognise and those things which affect our safety and possibly our lives. This MUST change.

We did two drops on the way up, into the depot and then did a couple of deliveries round town. The photo of the last trailer still coming out the gate with a roadtrain already on the road gives a different view.

On the way north I had asked my partner if I could listen to an audio book. He said “I don’t care what you do unless it keeps me awake, so keep the volume down.” On the way into Darwin he wanted me to slow down, to hear the end of the book and the same happened on the way home, so it seems I had introduced and converted another driver to the idea of audio books. Not only that, I got a call from the lady who looked after the drivers a few weeks later, saying, “You and your audio books, the drivers want to start a bloody library now.”

I must have done a good job and not scared him too much, as when I got back to Toowoomba, I was asked if I could then take another double out to do a changeover at Blackall I think. It was a very enjoyable paid holiday and I thank David Simon, his staff and my partner for the trip for giving me a chance to get to Darwin my first time. I have been back as a b-double and hope to again soon.

Next week a video about living in the Hotel Kenworth, inside the TIV. Till then Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

28th June 2020 A roadtrain to Coober Pedy.

Goodaye all. For a change, I am writing this a bit early. I am sitting in a ute outside a mine site whilst my truck and roadtrain trailers are unloaded. We all know everyone wants you to comply with all their rules, have all your inductions in place and that is fine when you have plenty of time to set it up. But that does not always happen, does it?

Sunrise at the rest area north of Glendambo. We stopped here some months ago and did filming for the soon to be released Roadtrain and Caravan video.

This was just such a striking sky, I had to get a photo.

This is one of the two five trailer ABB quin setups that I saw operate into the mine.

Now of course, I normally do b-double tautliners, mainly Melbourne/Brisbane and a roadtrain to Coober Pedy is a change. I did drive my first roadtrain in Western Queensland when I was 16 and I can’t have done too bad, as the boss said wake me up when we get to the next town, which was some hours away. The next day we had both slept and when I woke first, I got going again and he never clipped me over the ear then either.

Some years ago, following a comment from a number of drivers about the change in attitude of many new drivers, some said that the only place the old mateship and respect still existed, was on the Perth and Darwin runs. I rang David Simon and asked him about doing a trip to look at the truth of that and he agreed. His company has a driver training program, a 90 k speedlimit and he also wanted me to look at how that worked from the outside.

Some years prior to this, I had been at an ATA Convention in Canberra and had proposed a trip up and down the Pacific Highway, specifically to respond to comments from some drivers that there was some friction between the old hands on the Pacific and the fact that b-doubles were now allowed there and it seems, some weren’t happy.

There were even some reports that drivers in doubles had been abused and nearly run off the road. When I raised this at the convention, a couple asked why should I be supported to do such a trip and whilst it was a logical extension for me following my first two Highway Audit trips, it seems not all agreed. However, I had to put my case and see what I could arrange. I spoke with David Simon and he agreed to set up a trip in one of his trucks for me.

We arranged to do press with local papers and media on the way south and Barry Whitney from Owner Driver followed in his car and we did some interviews and stories, then we had the RTA set up two people from different sections, for the trip north. The first half was Justin Maguire to the Gold Coast where he caught a plane, then a lady from the Pacific Alliance and she was very much interested in the issue of Jake Brake noise and some complaints which had been received.

To start the trip, I flew to Brisbane, went out and picked up the truck at David’s depot, was test driven round the block and given instruction on their rules and procedures. Overall the trip went well and we were well received, got good support and follow up stories from all we spoke with, including Police and did some auditing of rest areas, along with speaking to drivers wherever we stopped at roadhouses.

I think I made a good impression with all I spoke with and whilst we are still short of rest areas on the Pacific Highway, the roadworks have made it a much quicker trip and a much safer road for all who travel it. The newspapers we spoke with (and some journos spent either a short time in the truck or interviewed me in it at the roadside) were all positive and some even used the Truckies Top Ten Tips (for sharing the road with trucks) in their stories. Barry covered the trip and my column did as well. We still need more rest areas, even now and from where I sit, the losses are greater than the gains of a few new truck bays.   

For the Darwin trip, David set it up for me to be picked up in Dubbo by one of this trucks and travel to Brisbane, where I had a meal and a kip whilst the trailers were all loaded. Three trucks left with single trailers for Toowoomba with myself in one, my partner for the trip in another and a local bloke with the third. It was on dark when we got to the yard in Toowoomba and my partner, (who had thought I was a journalist) said, hook up the dolly and then put it under his trailer as the dog. The truck I had, being a local one, did not have any hook up lights, but I got the dolly hooked up then put it under the dog, pulled my truck out and he then returned to hook up the Darwin truck. I think that allayed some of his fears about me and we got on well for the whole trip.

This gent had been with Simons and doing Darwin for sometime and had a cooker and once we left Augathella after having breakfast and then later hooking up the third trailer, he cooked nearly all the meals and then I bought all the food for the return trip. He did well and whilst I did come up with a better solution than cooking on the back of the prime mover, it was early on the way up he said, “You won’t be able to get a coffee and a meal up here like you can on the Newell” and he was of course, absolutely right. You can’t even park a triple to go to one of the few toilets, for it seems hundreds of kilometres.

At a rest area on the way home from Darwin.

I will make this a two part story and so will be back next week with the exiting completion of my first Darwin and triple trek. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

20th June 2020

Goodaye all. I have had an interesting week, some nice comments from drivers on the UHF and in person, a good Wednesday morning on Nightshift discussing logbooks and taking calls, an different work week, some mistakes by others,  meaning unloading and then reloading product for fun and enjoyment and off tomorrow for something completely different.

I am getting more and more frustrated with roads and how they are fixed, who really controls the work and allocation and why does it look to many of us, as all arse about. In discussing this with a work colleague, he nominated the coroner as being very influential in certain road changes. Has anyone seen this before and do you agree or disagree and why? Do we then need to get the coroners into trucks?

Years ago a mate sent me a copy of a coroners report on a major truck crash. Some of the questions raised, showed a lack of understanding of trucks by the coroner and yet there was serious disregard of what truck drivers and operators had to say, on how a road and its problems had been highlighted to authorities who had failed to act. At that time, I thought those involved working on the road, the trucks and owners, had acted in good faith to report a problem, the road authority virtually ignored them and then there was a crash involving a death.

The road authority was held partly responsible and then went and changed the law, so they could not be held responsible in the future. How does that work?

Why do we now have AB Triples running the Newell Highway when they can’t run the Hume and lets build a heap of overtaking lanes on long straight sections of road instead of twisting bits and then lets ignore the big hills and terrain in the Pilliga and from Tooraweenah.

Last week travelling from Duaringa to Rockhampton, the same thing, let’s build a major widening of the road just before we come to a curving twisting bottleneck, where most trucks going to the mines are roadtrains and bigger, where the hazards and delays to all traffic in this section will be 10 times worse than the bit of road we are widening. Why not fix the bottleneck first and then widen the road?

It is like the rest areas. Travelled the Golden Highway, Dubbo to Newcastle and much work being done. This was the first road on which I did a highway audit many years ago and I thank Maurice Finemore, my boss at the time, for helping me achieve it. I had six shire engineers travel their section of the road from Singleton outbound to Dubbo and gave each a list of the issues in their section made up over the previous trips.  And within two years, everything from signs too close to the road, culverts too close and bumps etc, was improved and or fixed with the exception of one culvert issue and two major projects, one a major realignment and another a bridge replacement. These were done within five years and there is more work to do now.

Some of the sections are improving and there has been some new rest areas, but I had asked for input and pushed for green reflector bays (and the number of them had grown slowly as and when possible to mark them). Yet we had no request for input, some bays too close and then nothing leaving large gaps and so, I rang and have listed a couple of issues and asked to be contacted for further comments to be considered.

Lastly got informed of a survey on a number of road safety issues. Speeding in school zones and roadworks. I could not in good conscience complete the surveys as they were framed to blame, not to ask why. I would hope no one who has ever had children, would ever speed in a school zone. But I want to be able to explain why I consider some roadworks to be wrongly signed for the safety of all on the road, not just the roadworkers and why I believe that just because some one thinks it is a good idea to leave speedlimits reduced when there is no work on the road at all, some will then ignore what may well be suitable limits at times when workers are working.

We need good roads, we need them fixed and repaired properly and we need those doing the work to be safe, absolutely. But those using the road need to be involved, not just told, slow down. I have written to the authors of the survey, offering comment, completed another survey that they may well say was not for me to contribute to and will hope to see more of us get a chance to contribute to improve road safety, not just answer surveys that to my mind, do not ask the right questions.  Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

14th June 2020

Goodaye all. A short week and a visit to hospital Wednesday afternoon to check something, which has led to a week-end home so I can go for an ultrasound Monday morning and then a Trucksafe medical after and hopefully then to work. In April loading at a place in Melbourne where you had to stand in your cage at the back of the trailers, I said I will be using ropes, along with my load restraint curtains if you are happy with that? Up to you mate, thanks.

Now having seen the damage caused by some cowboys that swing your straps into the roof and the freight when there is not much room over the freight, I know what needs additional restraint and am happy to use it, but if I can see and watch the loading and make sure they don’t do stupid stuff and the freight is acceptable and will stand up, then I am confident my gates, ropes and curtains will do the job and legally.

When the front sections were done and we were about to move the curtains, the bloke said, I can’t throw a rope, you’ll have to do it. Which is normally fine, as mostly you can throw over the pallet in front as you go when the freight is tall and there is not much room left above it. Once the section is full, it is a damn sight harder and not being allowed out during the loading, meant I had a hard time and with perhaps a bit too much effort, swung hard on the fourth attempt to try and force it throughand thought, bugger that hurt. So I changed to my left hand and eventually got loaded, had a sore right shoulder, but then hooked up the trailers and headed off. It was bit sore the following day, but nothing serious, I thought.

Three weeks ago sitting at the BP at Clermont having tea, I looked at my right arm and thought, MMM my morning push ups are working well, what a muscle, but then looked at the other side and thought, that’s not even. More MMMMM and the muscle bit seemed to move about. Didn’t get home for another week and showed my son who has been into body building a bit and he said, looks like you might have torn a tendon.

End result, though I have not had any real pain and the shoulder works fine, I went to the hospital for a qualified answer and whilst still not sure, now have to get the ultrasound Monday. We will see what happens. Worked local Thursday/ Friday, got a service done and started a bit of sanding for some paint touch up Monday and arranged my Trucksafe Medical too.

Some of you may be aware, Big Rigs magazine will be folding as part of the closure of many regional papers, they were in the Queensland times offices in Ipswich and are a relation and were told, you will be closing. Sorry to see another industry paper go, Trucking Life the other most recent loss. James the editor has been a good supporter and rang me Friday afternoon for an interview for the last edition. Big Rigs was fortnightly and was available in some of the servos where Owner Driver was not. It seemed to have a regular group of readers and the last few editors had made some changes that took it from just a social sheet to containing some good info.

NTI have just released their report into truck crashes. It had gone to two yearly, but has been released early this year. It of course only covers the vehicles NTI insure, not the whole of the industry and I do believe you can’t change what you don’t understand. Yes, when there is a crash, there is a cause and often though, more than one. But on the side of the road in the middle of carnage and suffering, the bump down the road or the irregularity in the road surface just up the road are not the most important factors at the time, yet could have been contributing factors and will often be missed or completely ignored. For that reason, I do support proper crash investigations to get all the facts, not just the obvious ones and then maybe we can do more to prevent them. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.