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.

7th March 2021

Goodaye all, just a quick note, had plans for the week end, but other things came along. Had plans to stay overnight in Melbourne for Friday morning, after loading Thursday, good easy load, and due to the freight we had carted sometimes before now ending up on the rail, only to have the train derail last week and screw up many freight plans, so trucks to the rescue again.

So instead of bolting Thursday and being home Friday evening, got an EBS problem half sorted Friday morning, could not arrange the next thing and then couldn’t solve my other problem at Albury. Never give up, it will get done. So off up the Hume to Albury, rang Vicroads with another list, 2 previous issues along with another request about the Broadford weighbridge being closed. A gent rang me back to tell me NHVR now control the bridge and I said, thanks, I will follow that up this afternoon.

Qued up, not normally here this time of day, got the truck and trailers washed, terrific job, thanks gents at the King of the Road Truckwash in Lavington, had to pull out just as the NHVR Owner Driver zoom meeting started, parked up and took part for the next hour.

As per the chat time at the Puma at Moree which the NHVR held on Tuesday past, with about 50 drivers talking and asking questions and some free meal vouchers supplied by the Road Safety Officer from the Moree Shire Council, some will say the NHVR has not solved all our problems, and nor is it NATIONAL. But they, with such meetings at Moree and others, along with this group I have been invited into, are giving us a chance to comment and contribute, so I do say, well done to all.

These Owner Driver meetings by the NHVR have been going on using zoom for some time. I do recognise and have said before, we do not get to contribute to many of the things that affect us on the road. NHVR has responsibility for many things, but not all and whilst complaining to them about truck rest areas, over which they have no control or jurisdiction might seem to be wasting time in some ways, it does make them aware of the challenges we face in being safe and complaint and I hope, then gives them more ammo to use against the states when they fail to provide what we need.

I did get a follow up call after the meeting, the Broadford bridge is having some work done hopefully next week and should be up and open after that for us to use to check weights. I did commend Vicroads when they left it on and open for us, but complained when they turned it off and we went in there and found it closed, only to have to drag your loaded b-double back up the long hill. A sign saying it was closed is not too much to ask. Pity RMS or whoever they are this week can’t do the same, but they can spend $2 million putting up a roof at Daroolbalgie. MMMMMMMMMMMMM!

I raised a list of issues, there was a presentation about the work of Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds and I have asked to be more involved with their rest area group. Let us hope this help gets to those who need it more. I then headed off to get into Dubbo late Friday, Saturday morning helped my son pick up a car with another son and then home to have a shower and attend the Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers (LBRCA) meeting in Dubbo. I spoke there seeking their support for the Stop the River St Bridge campaign, asked for support with the green reflector marking of truck bays and put some questions to the two lovely Transport for NSW ladies in attendance.

The MC didn’t want me picking on them and giving them a hard time, and as an invited guest, I had no association backing as such, but they took my questions in their stride, have given me contact details and I hope we can work together to get better outcomes for all on the road in the future.

No association can do much without passionate and committed members. The LBRCA do a good job in representing their members and have been successful in getting up a Farmgate scheme that allows access to farms on roads not already approved for b-doubles and the like. Well done to them and those who have participated and got this up and running in 6 council areas so far. Getting Transport for NSW to have people attend and answer questions as well, is another feather in their cap. They held their AGM, voting in the new committee before I got there and then had a dinner, which I attended. They also have a young driver of the year award and the winner gets a trip, subject to covid to investigate and finds ways to improve the industry. I do not have the young fellows name, but did congratulate him and also think it is a good way to recognise those who make more than the normal effort in this job.

So a finger in some more pies, some minor steps forward, some agreement from the Transport ladies that maybe they do need more driver input, particularly once the jobs are started to be designed etc, some work to follow up with after the NHVR meeting and now trying to get sorted and off to Brisbane. No rest for the wicked, they say. Till next week, Safe Travelling.

28th February 2021 A Moree focus.

Goodaye all, this week a Newell Highway and specifically Moree area focus. Back on this goat track, geez I missed it, the road to the Isa is not that much better in places, but neither can touch the roads in the West I have travelled on recently.

In raising a number of issues at the Newell Highway Taskforce meeting, I also got to ask some questions of other attendees. I asked about the toilet at Gurley, why is it half in the parking bay and closed already. It seems the adjacent land is owned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation and they flat refused to allow any use of their land. Thanks a lot.

Now again, we might think it then should have been simply moved along a bit, but the problem with it now closed, is due to the height and it floods. Anyone who has ever parked there in the rain, would have expected that. It is being addressed, just a pity money has been wasted, or we could have had another toilet built for use somewhere even better.

I was told that Tycannah Creek rest area is to be upgraded and have followed up asking to see the plans. That bay is one if not the only one with decent shade, certainly in that neck of the woods and whilst they will add a toilet, I fear they will destroy the shade and I will be fighting against that. I will be asking them to consider building an additional site and leaving Tycannah as it is. I would welcome your thoughts.

The next problem is the parking around the Puma at Moree. We certainly welcomed it there and it gets full quickly, much worse in harvest and many have been parking in the streets surrounding it. Now technically it is illegal, but council have been ignoring it till now, for two reasons. The first is that a village will be built on the adjoining land for Inland Rail workers, so it will have a large population increase in the area and they will have vehicles and people coming and going for the next few years.

The second problem is what I want to seek input on. In discussions with council, they raised the problem of piss bottles being thrown and left full on the land and then people defecating there as well. It got to the point, that they were getting complaints from locals and their workers complained about the issue of cleaning it up and this stuff being hit by mowers etc. Council agreed to then leave the grass grow, please remember again, they could have policed the one hour parking, but have not since the site opened, but then some shit on the road and left full piss bottles there as well.

So thanks to the untidy lazy and stupid idiots who can’t walk to the servo and or empty a pee bottle etc, we will lose anther parking area and have pissed off the council and those who have to clean up after them. We are all getting older and we know good food is hard to come by and sometimes bad food has repercussions you must act on fast, but to do this when the servo has a functioning toilet less than mostly 200 or 300 metres away, is not just a disgrace, it is simply pathetic.

When the idiots who do this next want a toilet or place to park, they will whinge and sook that we don’t have places and we all know that is true now. So what chance have I got in asking for more, when people behave this way? I would like your views please.

The Puma has had to close the showers due to lousy building and the site I am told is sinking and cracking pipes. Bad work has had us affected again, yet if we can’t even pee etc without making a mess for others, no wonder we are struggling to get decent facilities for truckies. What can we do to change this?

NHVR will be holding a discussion group for drivers and farmers at the Puma at Moree next Tuesday, 2nd March from 10 AM till 6 PM. The Moree Council Road Safety Officer has provided some funds to give out meal vouchers to drivers who attend and make a reasonable effort to participate towards better road safety outcomes for all. I have spoken with the council RSO re the issues raised above as mentioned, but would like to thank them for this effort as well. It is the first time I am aware of such a gesture. Safe Travelling Rod Hannifey.

22nd February 2021 A triple to Mt Isa.

Goodaye all, it is hot here in Mt Isa and I have just finished helping unload the three trailers I brought up as a triple roadtrain. I was asked by a driver last night, “What are you doing up this way?” and then followed up with ”I haven’t seen you with a triple on much” and then another who offered me to come round his quad with my triple, as he was turning off a bit further up and I asked did he know about the green reflectors?

He said he had seen them and thought that someone had used them to mark a parking bay, so I explained the aims and intents of the simple idea and why they are there. These sites are paved and big enough for a triple or quad at 53.5 metres long, but in the dark, they were not marked in any way, so by the time you see them you simply cannot just hit the brakes and pull in at a gross weight of 100 tonne or more with the quads.

Now the drivers of these rigs still need to have a pee at times, they have to deal with wildlife on the road and if they hit one, they need to be able to stop and inspect for damage, they might need a break or kip to get to the next rest area and there are some big gaps between Longreach, Winton and Cloncurry.

So it has been a wild start to the year, Port Hedland and have any of you seen the damage wrought there behind us, roads completely washed away by cyclones and we were so lucky to have beaten the first cyclone, let alone the two more that followed and did all the damage.

I have received a corporate response from AMPOL, saying it is all commercial and thank you for my contact and please keep in touch, of course I am paraphrasing a bit, but from where I sit, it was a fob off. Now if they were to say we closed it being a Caltex and are refurbishing and reopening as an Ampol, then we are all happy to get better facilities and new sites to use, but no, so they will get another email.

A little bit of playing photographer while on my 24 hour break in Brisbane.

Again playing photographer, this in a parking bay north of Kynuna. You can see the triple going southbound and mine is 53 meters long as well. Please consider a UHF radio if you are going to travel into remote Australia and for your sake and ours, do not attempt to overtake a ROADTRAIN without sufficient roadspace and vision.

Same goes for Revenue NSW, they have refused my review, even with photos of my Teletrac Navman system, which cannot be tampered with without showing those changes and where and when they were done, so I have asked for a second review. Watch this space.

In this roughly 2000 k trip from Brisbane to Mt Isa, I have only had one real incident. A motorhome decided to overtake me and considering he had been there a while and I was 53 metres long and near 100 tonne travelling at about 90 kph, there are not a lot of safe places to overtake. However old mate decided to have a go, but with less than one k of road visible, he’s off. He finally got past me as the broken lines end and we approached a blind corner. After getting a friendly wave from the female partner as they passed the cab, I showed my dismay and concern for his safety and mine by trying to burn a hole in the back of his van. Less than 30 seconds later, a 4wd ute came the other way. Had he been 25 seconds earlier, it would have been not just interesting, it could have been life threatening.

Then the bloke behind him decided to pass, at least he did it with k’s of empty road in front, but did so at 91 kph, taking more than a kilometre to get past and then within 30 minutes, I was gaining on him, he had slowed, I had not speed up, so why pass me in the first place? With a little bit of light, he moved away and left me behind, but it can be a lonely road up this way. Last time before Christmas, leaving Cloncurry nearing sunset, I think I saw four trucks and two cars, all going north with not a vehicle going my way in well over four hours on the road.

Have to get some sleep to load and hit the road tomorrow, hope to be back in Brissie Thursday and home Friday or Saturday, for a special day, Monday. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

14th February 2021 Some good and some bad.

Goodaye all, today we have some good news and some bad news. Or do we have news that is bad and then news that is worse and no matter how I string it, I will piss off someone and not just someone, but some seriously big players in our lives on the road.

I got a ticket from a Police officer, a random (or was it?) stop, looked till he found something, would not listen to my explanation, or let me look at what he was charging me for, then I wrote with details and photos which I believe exonerate me from the offence. So from my point of view, I have not committed an offence, I may have made a clerical error, but have backed up my view and so now to court. A $450 fine for exceeding driving hours by up to 15 minutes, which I dispute and my logbook and EWD confirm, but no warning, no consideration of my record and no way is the alleged offence worthy of such a penalty. Even more so when I then had a 7 and a quarter hour break.

Why are the police allowed to fine us for transport law they are not correctly taught to understand? Why can they work a double shift and get paid overtime and then charge us a ridiculous penalty for a minor breach? Why are we cheated out our weeks wages by someone that is not able to be overseen by a stand alone third party? From my view, with the HVNL being overseen by the NHVR, I have no problem being stopped and inspected and if treated fairly, getting a ticket if I am wrong or in breach of something regarding safety, not just my own, but that of other road users as well.

Then I have heard from two other drivers within days of the review, rejecting and saying they cannot withdraw the penalty (a complete lie) of similar abuses of power and surprise, surprise, again both by Police. I will not bore you with the details here, but they will be the start of a list for the current Senate Inquiry into a Safe and Viable Road Transport industry. No wonders drivers are leaving this job and I am sure many of you have seen the release or recent mental health issues and concerns with truckies, no bloody wonder when we are treated like this. More to come.

I did get invited to attend the Newell Highway Taskforce Committee meeting in Parkes (thanks as always to RPT for helping me get there and giving me the time) and was then accepted as a member and proceeded to give a list of Newell issues. Some I have pursued previously, some will now gain some more prominence, as the RMS or whoever they are this week, was not aware of a couple, but is now and I aim to follow up with more. Having come back from the west and roads you do not see here, again I ask why?

Lastly I must welcome back AMPOL, instead of Caltex, but from a truckies view, they are coming in and going backwards at a rate of knots. Why would you take back control of the servo in Longreach and then close the bloody thing down when you now leave us with a 400k gap for any services? Closing the kitchen at Yarroweah, closing Cunnamulla altogether and telling us they have a truck network and are aiming to help us!!!!!!!!!!! Really!!!!!!!!! I have emailed them and will wait for an answer. What do you think? We are going backwards in so many ways and who of you can or will, do something? The lack of submissions to the HVNL review will leave us open to those who don’t have to live by our rules, changing them to punish, penalise and control us even more and once it is done, it will never change back and only continue to get worse, because someone else should have done it.

I am not as friendly this week as you might see. Something else I am working on has hit a couple of snags, it will still happen, but not as I hoped, planned and intended. There are not enough hours in the day and I am off to work after tea, but will keep trying and that is all I ask of any of you who care. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

6th February 2021

Goodaye all, a short note for this week after the long WA trip instalments. Thanks to all who commented and said they enjoyed it. The workshop found the shifter for the AMT was producing the codes, not the harness and I thought I was getting another day off and whilst they had a new one picked up out of Melbourne, I ended up going down in another truck, supposedly as passenger but ended up driving (thanks for tea and lunch Jack) and picking another one up, to go back to Dubbo.

Back in mine Wednesday, took part in the “Stop the Bridge” convoy in Dubbo with the long term aim to procure a by-pass for Dubbo, instead of a bridge that is said will stop flooding of the Newell, but from all accounts won’t, so why have something that will not provide a solution.

I got a call on the way home from WA from a mechanic in Bundaberg who asked me about suzi coils. He said he had been called out to a crash where the suzi coil had been pinched and the trailer brakes had failed. He then asked a number of drivers and 8 out of ten did not really know what the suzi coil lines did and I find that a bit scary.

Years ago I had another tow truck operator contact me following major crash involving a fuel tanker and it was found the push/pull air connections had failed. Now I have certainly seen suzi coils rubbing on checkerplate and they can be damaged when pulled too far or get caught when going round corners, but when you think about it, how often are they checked, unless they fail or you hear an air leak and now with many trucks fitted with park brake alarms, you can’t check the trailer brakes for air leaks without the horn blaring.

Have any of you had either of these problems, are you even aware of the issue and will you check your suzi coils and the air connections, next time you hook up?  Normally you will know when the connections are getting worn, they will feel loose and or leak, but you can only check when air is applied.  To link the two problems, the Bundaberg fellow has twice now, when explaining the problem and having checked and found no leaks, pulled the air connections to ensure they are OK, had them come off in his hand. He also said some drivers did not know you must turn them to lock them away from the hook up alignment. It is both an issue with a possible lack of training for new drivers and complacency with older ones.

A couple of you commented on a need for a new horse and yes, it was a bugger of a couple of weeks. But for a truck now nearing ten years old, traveled close to 2 million k, mostly with b-doubles often at 67 tonne or more but with a few roadtrains and triples involved as well, it has been and continues to be, a terrific workhorse. There is not one part or panel I can think of that I have not modified or changed in some way, mostly minor and often cosmetic, but Kenworth have done a good job with the K200. That does not mean I would not welcome the chance to help them make it even better. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

31st January 2020 Part 3 of the big trip.

Goodaye all, as part three and ending the big trip, last Sunday I had left you in the middle of nowhere, at the end of the world. Of course, it wasn’t and after a kip, we travelled on to Perth arriving late Saturday evening and because we were two up, arranged a motel room for two nights. We did some washing, along with a few bits and pieces catching up etc.

Monday morning, three full trailers to load, back and forth south of Perth, a visit to Kenworth to get a throttle position sensor and harness, but either a sensor or a whole pedal, so a whole pedal as they did not keep the harness as a part and I was told the shaft in the pedal pivot can wear and then affect the sensor. Considering the pedal was over 9 and a half years old, and it had done over 1.9 million, maybe better to replace the whole thing, but of course, a fair bit dearer, so had to get permission. Then tarp all three trailers, a customer requirement just for fun, that done out to Northam with the first, back for the second and off east as a two trailer roadtrain.

We made it to Balladonia midday Tuesday and I jumped in the TIV, did a lap round the servo which went fine and told Greg, not to take offence, it simply didn’t want him to drive her! So he headed off back to Perth to get his other trailer, I hooked up, backed up to get fuel and as soon as I tried to move forward, it failed again. I got it to the bowser, fueled up and then managed to get it away from the bowser without disconnecting again. Sorted the fuel and thanked the staff for keeping an eye on the truck whilst there, they had offered to do so and ring me if anything happened.

I had discussed the problem with our head mechanic and there is a procedure to reset the throttle sensor, so I tried that a few times without success, and was then told to disconnect the batteries, so cab up, disconnect two, still power, pull the bottom two out and disconnect, still power, must be a short, oh wait, there is a shared earth on the EGR sensor, take that off, but it had a childproof fitting and I could not get it off without breaking it. Power gone now, so hook it all up again.

By then I had had enough, waiting for return calls as being Australia Day, mate was playing golf, you must get your priorities right. So having packed all my gear away, he then rang and said, no, you will have to change the pedal. I had suggested this when I had to buy the pedal complete, but was told I wouldn’t be able to do it, it was a bugger of a job. So I asked, if it is such a bugger of a job, why are you telling me to do it now? Oh, well sometimes it is easy and sometimes not, it might take 15 minutes, or it might take an hour plus. So I pulled out my mats and that is another story for later, how the raised floor section near the pedal is not good for your spinal health.

It is bad enough when something fails as it has worn out, everything does, but when you find whoever worked on it last, has not only done a lousy job, but also left it half done, it can take the fun out of it all. I do believe it was a dealership, as they had finally fixed the engine ECM harness problem that had plagued me for some time and as part of that, had started with the throttle position sensor.

They did not only shear one of the bolts that mount the pedal to the floor and leave it in there, but instead of putting the harness through a specially cut slot, had put it under the edge of the panel (and then not even put all the screws back in the thing) and pinned it, so it seems to have been squashed and either rubbed or chaffed through. It did take me a while, but that included dusting and cleaning the floor, trying to get some of the accumulated dirt out from behind the panels and wiping all the mats etc. Then I went to bed.

Getting up after finishing my break, into gear and off, all working fine, problem solved. So to Adelaide, rang ahead, can I get a roadtrain in to unload, yes we have a big yard, mmmm. Rang again the next day when nearing the site, I asked yesterday about getting a roadtrain in, “So it is bigger than a b-double?” Yes two full trailers, yes you will be right. A couple of turns taken wide and got in the yard to unload. Got the first one untarped, unstrapped and ungated, so it could be unloaded while I did the second one, the fellows there did help me with the gates and the second tarp, thanks gents, confirmed I could have a bit of time to secure everything and have a 5 minute lunch, was told when we are getting ready to go, you will see us lock the in gate. No load available, so round to dog up the dolly and then the second trailer, thanks to all the gents at Verdons for their help and hit the road home.  

I did get an important call before I finished, held them up a little bit, but that is a story for the future. I was getting keen to get home, but wanted to get a bit up the road, check all the straps again, as I did not have any chains, they were all still in the third trailer and having got fuel and checked them all once, pulled up at BP Blanchetown to find a sign “Rump and vegies or salad and chips $14.95”. I do not normally eat steak, I find it a bit heavy and prefer rissoles or sausages, so I asked about the rump. “How do you have your steak?” Medium, “So you should get the rump” and I did.

Friendly staff too, $1.85 I think extra for the gravy, but for the money, a bloody good value feed. Good size, the salad had no beetroot or onion, but came with pasta and slaw, bread and butter included and delicious. Thanks and am told that the same company operates the Keith and Port Wakefield sites with the same deal as well.

Pulled up much later that night to get a fault code, a new one this time, but with no phone service, time for bed. Up Friday morning and no code and away I went, getting closer all the time to home. Made a couple more green reflector bay stops, have many people to ring and pursue, at least a few days work there when I can get the time, made it to Dubbo to find all the workshop staff going home. Ok well can you ring me if you want to check this code, as I am booked to leave Sunday.

Rang Saturday morning, busy but bring it out, only to try and it would not start, the code back up and stopped it winding over. Rang again, I have an appointment and will try after that. Back home, started first go, out to work, computer on and left it there to try and find the problem, more codes in a different harness. Got a call, have Sunday off and we will fix it Monday, too many issues and parts and time needed. So it has been a bit of an adventure, thanks to all for your comments and I hope you have enjoyed the tale as much as I have. I was asked on my return, so you made it back, would you go again? My answer, “I would go again tomorrow”, but of course, that would mean even more work as I would then have more time and bigger list of people to chase, we will see it if happens. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey. 

24th January 2021 Port Hedland Part 2

Part 2 of the Port Hedland trip. So my mate coming from Perth rang and said he had the parts and was on his way, but with breaks would not be to me till tomorrow noon. He said, have you got it off yet? No why? You can start it (no you can’t) and be ready for when I get there. You ring an hour out and I will be ready. So be it. I had a kip in the late afternoon, a couple of trucks stopped and asked was I ok, one from Dubbo so that was good of them to do so, others may have called on the radio, but unless they had what I needed, I would survive and only a rare few might have been able to do more. I had tea and read for awhile, planning to get up and hope to do my spot on “Nightshift” at 1 AM.

However, this raises the second issue from the trip. If you are a professional truckie and you are travelling on an empty road with an obviously broken down truck ahead and as far as possible but not that far off the road, would you not just mover over a little bit to avoid rocking, or waking or just annoying the poor bugger broken down with your turbulence. You can see he is broken down by the triangles and where he is parked, not in a rest area for a kip, you know or should that in that situation, you will possibly rock the cab sideways, and perhaps even, impact on his sleep, but only some moved over. Now if there is opposing traffic, fine, but with nothing in sight for over 10 k, WHY WOULD YOU NOT?

So knowing I was there for awhile, I read till just before my spot, got up on the load to get a signal, then up a bit higher when it was breaking up and Luke thought it a great effort to go to call in, one, the show must go on and it must show how keen I am to keep it going. Then to bed and up in the morning to remove the drivers side tank step, straighten it from a deep gutter which had seen the front of the trailer kiss and bend it, resecure with a bigger washer etc. Then wait.

Gregory rang, about an hour away, have you got it off yet, no, I will be ready when you get here and I was and he wasn’t and so I spent another hour standing in the sun waiting. I had called and asked about the pulley, having seen how hard they can be to get off a used alternator and was told there was a new one and belt supplied. In the end, I am glad I stopped as quickly as I did, it was the wrong belt! Had the old one been destroyed by going further or starting it etc, we would have had to wait another day for a belt.

There is a saga about the alternator that will only bore you, suffice to say it was slightly different, a broken wire I had found but no one was sure what it was for, had supreme relevance and my photo before removal will be more scrutinised next time. We took off, it did not work, with the help of the young chap who had stopped the day before, we got it fixed. This delay had meant a whole new plan, to meet our deadline for delivery and with the cyclone still approaching, Greg’s easy trip home with a single would be delayed and we would go two up to Port Hedland.

We were off, Greg and I agreed we would take my truck north, it had double bunks and all my gear on it and we worked on a plan, till we got nearly to Balladonia and the accelerator on my truck died. We made a decision, nothing could be done then and we carried on in Greg’s truck. It was all good, we hooked up the third trailer and had a shower at Kalgoorlie, then headed north. There was only one real scare, nearing Port Hedland very early Friday morning and after seeing many and overtaking a couple and then two quads together, with radio communication much a part of it, I came round a corner at about 95 with maybe 100 tonne gross and found a bull standing 100 metres in front of me in my lane. It had been raining and whilst normally it would be best to go behind him, that would have meant putting the passenger side tyres off the bitumen and I didn’t like that idea, so I braked, swerved is not the right term to use when towing three trailers, more I gently turned with the aim of just missing the bull, Greg heard me go OHHHHHHH and was up out of the bunk and saying, “Oh Goodness” or something akin to that so I can keep it family friendly and I missed the bull, then we tried calling and flashing other southbound drivers, but none responded, what else could I do?

We did stop and I offered a TIV poster to the Caltex at Mt Magnet and got some good photos of some of the combinations. We had not seen one vehicle travelling in our direction across that three hours, took some rest area photos, marked one green reflector bay north of town and had two in mind to mark on the way back, had meals on the run, fueled up and kept going.

We got close to town and went to bed for a sleep, before unloading in the morning. A full day involved, including waiting for the crane, then the fork, unloading three trailers, doing up all the straps and chains, having the crane lift one dolly on top of one trailer, then backing that trailer up onto the drop deck which had its’ own ramps, much trailer and dolly shifting and dropping and then securing it all, ready for the trip south to Perth, so we could go straight in as a legal double roadtrain.

We had made it on time, delivered the load, beaten the cyclone (it did move away and diminish a bit, but from what we hear, brought some very heavy rain, which we then missed) and we were off again two up to Perth. Arriving in Perth Saturday night our time after a visit to the ever lovely and pink trucked Miss Heather Jones, who wants me to come back soon with the new TIV, we dumped the trailers and headed to a motel. Now Greg is a nice bloke and two up is one thing and we had to get the load there, but with only one bed, we needed a break and a decent bed and that is where I am now.

This trip still holds its challenges and a long way to go, but there are other issues. The roads which have little traffic, but more and better rest areas than on the Newell Highway, (in all truth, they have it right in many ways and we are so far behind them) better road surfaces (same here as previous comment), better maintained, yet narrower, though with longer combinations, the absolute stupidity of a brilliant new roadtrain facility, but without showers and toilets at Karratha and the fight between state and federal governments about those facilities.

Those of you who know of my audio books passion, may know of the book by Nevil Shute, “On the beach” and when we pulled up in the middle of nowhere for a kip south of Karratha, having seen very few vehicles, it was like we could have been the only two people left on earth as in the book. I had planned to add photos, but motel wi-fi not up to it. Maybe they will be better as a story of their own with details.

Loading tomorrow and that may well be yet another story. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

24th January 2021 Port Hedland part 1

Well, goodaye all from Perth. I had considered a bit of a story each couple of days for those of you who may have been interested in such a trek as was being undertaken. I recognise it is not important in the scheme of things and those of you who read this, come from some different backgrounds and of course, have varying road transport involvement. But I thought it would be a chance for me to try a different format, both for my own experience and to see what comments it brought.

With my later than initially planned departure, some my fault and some not, the now slightly tighter timeframe and then word of an impending cyclone hitting just where I was due to deliver, some of the things I had planned as part of the trip did not lose focus, but moved down the scale of importance, as you must always be prepared to amend and balance issues as you go along. This was not just a trip to Melbourne or Brisbane and back, which I do every week, so if I see something but can’t act on it this week, I know I will get another look soon.

I do plan many things, have many aims, often have insufficient time to do all I would like to be able to do, but I am an employed driver. I must also do my part for the company and then do my stuff as and where it will fit, without substantial impact to my employer and their work and scheduling, which of course extends not only to their customers, but to my legal compliance with everything else. Knowing this would possibly be a once in a lifetime trip, but also being realistic, it could change, I did plan to do some green reflector bays, check out rest areas, make notes on roads and rest areas for a section of the network I do not get to travel regularly and in the format I was due to be in, roadtrains etc.

I would welcome some feedback from you readers. I enjoy all I do, wish I could do more of some things and less of others, but we all need to pay the bills. I enjoy writing and getting comments on my experiences and whilst that is not the only reason behind the blog etc, some of it is cathartic, it gives me even in writing it, pause to help decide how to focus more on some things and less on others, overall, to gain the best from the time spent. This is a bit deep, but with a new truck coming, I will have to even more, get the most benefit for the best outcomes. Comments welcome please.

It has been an interesting week. I left home last Sunday after trying to do a lot of things in a little time, so was later than I had planned by the time I left the yard in Dubbo. Knowing it was to be a long trip (but I am sure you are shocked it had already changed by Monday and kept doing so till Wednesday PM), I did my shopping, bought a large container of extra drinking water, then at the yard, got a 20l drum of water for the truck and 5l of oil. I have a water tank and extra oil etc in my trailers, but were not taking them due to the nature of the load.

It had initially been planned as a triple from Dubbo, but we also had a single trailer load for Perth, so it was decided another driver would take the single and my third trailer towards Perth as a double roadtrain and drop my third at Norseman, where I would hook it up and go north with three. I left Dubbo at 3PM Sunday after my 24 hour break etc, having only got home Saturday morning. I had checked the third trailer over before it left when in the yard Thursday before I went to Melbourne. Saturday I asked to have a few tyres replaced, as was looking at a possible round trip of over 15,000k if I loaded back across the top as a triple, as was the plan when I went home Saturday.

Before I went home I got another driver to hook the trailers up and check it all over, so I could come in Sunday and just go and that part went well, sort of. I headed out and got to Emmdale just as they were closing, was needing a quick break and they had turned off the grill but offered me toasted sangas. I got two with a cuppa, chatted while eating, offered up some green reflector bay posters and then back into it and made it through to the other side of Broken Hill. Then went to bed just before 1AM, so as not to lose any hours by being on the road in the “night hours” which then carry a loading into your maximum work hours for the week and I did have a big week or two in the weeks ahead.

Up, brekkie, a look over the load, add another strap to a couple of blocks of timber in a pack which wanted to move out, then a bit up the road stopped at a suitable green reflector bay before Oodla Wirra and not only found a good ratchet with a broken strap someone had discarded, but then another strap and ratchet still wrapped up as if just dropped. All good across the SA border, spoke with our other driver in front who had been delayed at the WA border, so I gained a bit of time on him and kept pedalling, but had been told the plan to come home round the top had changed.

It would have been a near round Australia trip and my first that way across the top of Australia, but such is life and it was to change much more and with more impact yet. I was making a list of issues, bad bumps, parking bay issues etc as I went. A covid test, yes quick and painless at Port Augusta, refuel, check straps and load and launch into the wide blue westbound yonder. On that second night, was westbound after having a chat with another driver who recognised the truck as he went past me, we covered rest areas and roads and green reflector bays.

Again hoping to pull up by 1AM for the hours and not knowing the road, I started looking for a parking bay from about 12.30 AM, but there was none, then a couple. on the eastbound side, but signed no entry for westbound trucks, then I missed one not signed for westbound and in the end, pulled into an eastbound one signed No Entry.

There will be much to follow up with from this trip, but the first is who, how and why are some rest areas marked signed and or designed or not, for both directions of travel? Some do, some don’t, some will and some won’t suit both directions of travel, but where I was still east of Nulllabor, there is some bloody big gaps, there are some rest areas but only signed for eastbound traffic, yet in other places where there are more rest areas, some are signed for both directions and others not. Yes, rest areas cost money to build and then to maintain, but to us we need them to survive, manage fatigue, prevent fines and they are critical to each of these issues and of course, important to other motorists as well, but not to the same extent.

We have so far to go to get consistency, suitable capacity and sufficient facilities for truck drivers in rest areas and we all live and drive in often, many states of this one country, yet we have those who understand, those who don’t, others who don’t care about us, yet have control over our lives and even as simply, as to whether we can use a toilet, what a disgrace.

Anyway, back to the trip. Got up and headed west, saw a Parking Bay sign just up the road and thought, should have kept going, only to then find it marked, NO TRUCKS, that would have been very bloody helpful, NOT! Because we are a fairly adaptable bunch, we have pushed and parked and made a wide shoulder in the front of this no truck bay, but it would not have been the best place for an 8 hour break, I would have not got quality sleep with trucks rocketing by a coupe of feet away and had I continued, the next one was much further on just before Nullabor Village, would I have made it safely? Who cares, not those who have control of our lives and our parking bays.

This is the part where it all starts to go awry. Through the WA border, Coppers good and smiling and satisfied, border not as friendly but all good in the end and away. Down the pass and along the flat and I smelt something burning, checked the alternator, voltage down, pulled up, belt and pulley now screaming and shut it down. Fairly certain of the problem, drop bullbar, cab up and check, alternator pulley seized. Cab down and try the phone. Got through, lost signal. Up on load, signal back, rang workshop with the news. “Really, where?” was the first comment, yes really, yes on the Nullabor. He  would get back to me. Only 28 hours later I would be back on the road, what else do you do, catch up on paperwork, do my diary, make a couple of calls, some came out of the blue and lasted, others failed, must have been the cyclone?

Now another issue. The Nullabor has near perfect wide shoulders, good road surface and some rest areas and if you break down or blow a tyre, you can stop nearly anywhere and change it with relative safety as the reasonably light traffic has long straight vision to see you. It did not have any green reflector bays till then. I had looked ahead to a slightly wider shoulder, thought that a better place to stop, hoping it was only minor, but was there 28 hours. Once a diagnosis and plan was in place and knowing I would be there for a while, I put out my breakdown triangles.

A couple of trucks stopped asking was I OK, one as I was walking up the road a good way from the truck. I explained I was going to the next guidepost as they are a good way apart here and what I was doing. A young fellow pulled up in a ute, but had only some DAF and Volvo parts and knowledge. I could possibly have put up a sign asking for a Kenworth/Cummins alternator, or sat on the radio and called many trucks. I knew I would not starve, had the again, magnificent Icepack, which would keep me cool and with power, so was if not content, not concerned for my immediate safety, but still annoyed, bugger this.

I did suggest work ask some of the regular Perth runners if they carried an alternator, but was told it was in hand. MMMMMM. Later that evening, it was decided the lead truck, who had made it to Perth and was reloading, would simply bring me one back, but the timing for Port Hedland was now getting critical and the cyclone was still coming and things would have to be sorted when back on the road.

As above, I will continue the story, but will hold you in suspense and have a break for now. Back soon, Rod Hannifey.

17th December 2021 On the road again.

Goodaye all. I did three trips to Melbourne week before last and on the third leg home decided to try Vicroads again. I got frustrated by the changes to their phone service and previously told them so, but had no further feedback nor did anything get fixed, so must admit, I gave up for a while.

But I rang and said I had a list of five things and the lady was accepting and interested. We got through the list and she said, “Is there anything else?” and I said yes, but I don’t have a reference point or kilometre marker, so will have to ring back when I can confirm. She did ring me back as she could not find Cemetery Road, I was still way south of there and I explained where and she said, found it, all good and she would pass all issues on.

Within an hour, I had a call back from one of the road managers. One issue they knew about, one they did not, two were previous complaints that nothing had been done about and we discussed those and one was out of his jurisdiction, but he would pass it on. I had his number on the phone and asked could I call him with other issues. He requested I continue to call the 131170 number and we discussed the menu issue and both he and the original lady said they had not listened to it and would.

The road manager did say they struggle to get the funding for some things and I explained that I rang with good intent, knowing they had a big network and that few of them understood our issues and hoped that my complaint, would not only see bits fixed or at least improved, but that my calling as a road user and raising these issues would possibly then help them get the funding. If no one complains, they will hopefully fix what they know about or see as a problem, but if we don’t tell them about the rough bridge abutments northbound at Glenrowan or the undulations southbound before Cemetery Road or all the other bits, how likely are they to fix them?

Now the cynical of you will say they won’t fix any of it anyway and yes, the southbound section near the inspection pads north of Kalkallo took me years to get fixed and are now failing again, but you must at least give me a B plus for trying and not giving up easily. We shall see what gets fixed, but many others have been over the years. We also discussed the wire rope and the problems it has caused in being run end to end on the Hume and I am still waiting for Vicroads to mark the overlap bays with green reflectors, but I shall never give up on that one.

Tomorrow I head off on my longest ever work trip. I might even try and make a story of it. I must go now to hook up my trailers for a trip to Norseman in WA and will pick up a third there for Port Hedland. It will be a big trip. Till next time, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

10th January 2021 trips and reflectors.

Goodaye all, a busy week, four audio books completed, three round trips to Melbourne, a call from TMR Roma and hopefully some work to now update and record and maintain green reflector bays in that area, that contact was to pass on my details to Emerald district with the same purpose, make them aware and have them add some new and also maintain current sites etc.

A call to Vicroads coming out of Melbourne Friday with a list of 5 issues, saw a 20 minute wait on the phone, but then not only a very understanding, but even more, someone who was even interested in my issues, taking a list and within the hour, I had a call from one of the road engineers regarding one section. He confirmed one problem, another was in their lists of things to do, one was not and would be added, one was a previous complaint and another was out of his jurisdiction, but he would pass on.

He did say they are struggling to get the funding to do all that needs to be done and I did say I hoped he would take my complaint and use it to get more funding as being a regular user of the road and therefore someone affected by road failures, like any other road user, those using the road regularly should be listened to. I asked could I contact him with another issue that I could not immediately recall accurately where it was and therefore, they would struggle to find it.

He said, “All I can suggest is you keep ringing the 131170 number and both raising issues that affect us and then in doing so, that will be helping them to get sufficient funding to fix those things. I was not happy with the menu on the call in number, raised that issue as well and both said they would pass that on.

I am working on a complete list of bumps from Oakey to Mt Isa and have forewarned TMR, but have been told it will at the least be passed on to the relevant districts. Only waiting for Rockhampton and Toowoomba to respond now. I am still not happy with the speed zones on the Toowoomba bypass, was told by QTA they were given an undertaking they would be reviewed, but nothing has changed except now the uphill section of the viaduct was corrugating before Christmas.

A couple of new and remarked green reflector bays on the Tomingley to Narromine Road, two still to do and a couple on the Newell near Peak Hill and Wagga remarked after new guideposts put in. A number of new sites marked between Roma and Mt Isa now marked from trips before Christmas as well. I raised it again with Vicroads and it was interesting to hear that even the repair crews complained about the wire rope before it went from end to end and they have had two trucks hit as there is now nowhere safe to pull off the road and be clear of traffic.

I was told by Vicroads in July last year, there would be a trial of marking the overlap bays in the wire rope with green reflectors in September 2020,  but none has been done and they refuse to respond when I ask again and again. No wonder we struggle to comply and have doubts about how serious they are about our safety.

Many of you may be aware of the change in the roadside radar cars in NSW. I am told that not only with the removal of the warning signs, that they will be able to catch you in both directions now, previously with the signs only on one side, they could not ping you going the other way, but if you meet one travelling on the road towards you, you can get a ticket from them as well now.

In for a service in the morning, then a delivery and off to Moree and possibly Brisbane. We had a busy Christmas and others I spoke to said the same. Did you see a change from the past? I see truck sales are up, freight volumes are up and all that is good for some, yet others are still affected by Covid and changes to their work load and or need for their services. Let us all hope this new year will see things improve. Till next week, Safe Travellling, Rod Hannifey.