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.

10th November 2019 Time, food and tax.

Goodaye again. Got back to Dubbo Friday, in for a service, do a couple of little jobs on the trailers then home. Have had a quiet day, dinner with family and still trying to catch up on news and events. I have tried to read most of the submissions for the senate inquiry (and did do the same for the HVNL review but have got behind in them) and there are some good points raised. Thanks to all who have submitted and to those in the future who will whinge about the outcome, whatever it may be, you had a chance and couldn’t be bothered, so don’t whinge now. Forty odd submissions to the Senate Inquiry, will that be enough and will they listen? Let’s hope.

Either I am getting older and angrier or car drivers are getting worse. It seems I can’t go even one trip into or out of a capital city, without at the very least one car driver, and often more, rushing to pass me and then at the last minute, push across and take an exit, they could simply have stayed behind and taken in safety. Yes, sometimes we get caught in the wrong lane and no one will let you across, but this seems deliberate and nearly a game. Yes I can get past this b-double and push in before the exit, sometimes more than one, sometimes at nearly the very last second and should I be so arrogant to suggest they have done the wrong thing (they have and risked not only their own lives and their passengers) by a blast on the horn, most will give me the finger.

Similarly, how can someone who has a license and therefore should know the rules and laws, expect a large heavily loaded truck to slow for them to merge simply because they are there and want to get in front of the truck. By law, they, the merging party must give way, but they won’t wait for the truck to go past and merge, they must be in front no matter what or how much they have to push in. Some will then have the immediate need to stop or turn at the next exit, obviously in a life or death hurry, the same with the pushers in, must you risk lives to simply gain two spaces or two seconds?

Are we teaching aggression, are we teaching stupidity to our learners, or are those older drivers simply in too much of a rush? I would welcome your thoughts.
Well done to the NHVR on the announcement of the personal use time for truckies being also available now on BFM and AFM. It is something I have been asking for, for many years. Yes, I saw it was available to drivers in the USA and asked, why not here? If I am stuck on a 24 hour break away from home, I have a license for the truck, I have a registered vehicle, with the owners permission, why can I not legally use it to go to the shop or chemist or whatever? Why should I get a $600 fine for going to the shop to buy food or supplies for my next week on the road? It has been an unfair and even yet another revenue raising penalty, simply because I am a truckie. THANKS NHVR.

On the other side of that, there are some truckstops who till now, knew we risked a fine to go to the supermarket to get the goods they sell at higher prices. Perhaps this will make some more competitive and give us better value. It may well give us the chance to get better, different or fresher food elsewhere, or even help us be more healthy on the road. Let’s hope so.

But do we then get a fair go at the tax office? If I buy food on the road, it is dearer than the places I simply cant access to park near in a b-double. If I buy that food to save some money at a supermarket to then eat on the road, I can’t claim it? Is this fair, no. But what can we do about it? Let me know your solutions please. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

3rd November 2019 Raining and home.

Goodaye all. Well for the first time in a while, I got home to Dubbo Friday, unloaded and will load Monday for Brisbane. Got a new logbook and audiobooks on the way home and now I will have time to finish my submission for the senate inquiry, write a piece about my request for both a National Road Standard and a National Rest Area Strategy, do my audiobook reviews, write this blog and catch up with all the other industry news and issues. The road standard and rest area strategy have been mentioned in HVNL review submissions, but there will not be a number 8 HVNL paper and I had planned to do a conclusion and include more details there. So I now have to send it to the NTC direct.

Both will be in the senate submission and have been mentioned in HVNL, but not to completion. I am disappointed at the number of submissions to both, but did hassle a mate when he rang last week to get something in and he has done so, along with a couple of others I have asked. I continue to believe the HVNL review did not get the exposure it needed to get more input.

The NTC and I understand also the senate inquiry, will be holding meetings where you can attend and that is well and good for those in associations who will be paid to attend. No one will pay a driver to attend as far as I know and it is just not the time. Even a company CEO who feels strongly enough to get up and support the industry and hopefully his drivers, will be paid to attend. He will not lose income and his company will pay for accommodation and airfares etc.

I cannot do all I would like, unless I completely ignore my bills and my family and neither of them will forgive or respect me for it, nor should they. It just highlights the near hypocrisy of reviews and inquiries that not all are treated the same. This is why I wanted more action to include drivers and their views. We are the only ones directly affected by much of the laws involved, both in how it controls our life on the road, but also in the actions we must then take to comply.

We must do as the law says to comply, if we don’t, we can be punished and our families too by the fines that often have nothing to do with road safety. Many drivers have commented for years, we are the only ones punished, we are the only ones held to account, we are forced to drive when tired and sleep when we are not, to comply with laws designed and policed by those who sit in boardrooms with hot and cold running secretaries, loos on every floor, five star food within reach and similar accommodation when they leave home.

Come and live on the road for a week and see what you think then. I have before had many members of the NTC do a trip with me. All have said they gained from the experience. One fellow came back to me after a discussion about a trip and said, “I will do a trip with you to Albury” (from Melbourne where he was based). I said, “Sorry no. Unless you agree to do a trip from Melbourne to Dubbo, I will not take you. If you only go to Albury, all you will see is the Hume Highway and you will go away thinking you know about transport and our problems. Yes, I will explain them all during the trip, but you must see more than the Hume, or I am not doing my part and you will miss all the issues.”

He came back to me and agreed to do the full trip and was to do so in his own time, but the NTC agreed to pay him for it and I agree they should have. He later attended a meeting, where someone said, “He took a 180 degree turn from where he was at the meeting before the trip.” How many in any state jurisdiction, transport ministry, or any industry group or union work fulltime on the road? Yes we can write submissions and put in comments, but as two of the first submissions to the senate inquiry commented (and there were only 15 at the first cut-off date) “I have written to these things before and nothing has changed so why should I bother now. Nothing will change now.” I do understand this frustration and feel it deeply.

What more can I do? I have spent well over 50 hours on HVNL and now senate inquiry submissions. I have done radio interviews asking for drivers to put in submissions. I have had industry press push hard for more access and submissions and asked individual drivers to contribute. Will anything change? I bloody hope so. Have to complete the other writings now, so back to the direct stuff. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

27th October 2019 Spreading the word.

Goodaye all. Thank you to the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia for their invite to their national rally at Elmore last Sunday. From the time I pulled up, there were people reading the banners I use at shows, asking questions and inspecting the TIV.

The first “workshop” held at the truck, had quite a number attend with an informal session on why I was there and general questions about trucks and the TIV. A number made the effort to climb in and inspect the interior with many commenting on the array of extras in the cab. At the end I had to beg off to get to the next more formal seminar, held inside with a Powerpoint presentation using photos and videos, including our sharing rest areas video. That went for an hour and a half with again, a need to call a halt to more questions to end the session.

At the end it was standing room only and many outside looking in. The organisers said after they were unsure how many would attend, but were very happy with the numbers who did. All I can say to those who suggest many people will not listen to our side of things, is that we must give them the chance. Abusing them over the UHF will do more harm than good and those who come to listen, I believe are far more likely to take something away of value, that will help them not only be safer on the road, but that will give them some better, if only minor understanding of some of our issues.

Stephen McCarthy from Whiteline Television and his lovely wife Sarah made a weekend away of it and then attended Sunday, filming our next TRUCK That Australia episode at the rally. Any of you who haven’t seen the previous episodes can do so at http://www.truckingnation.com.au where this latest episode, along with all our top tips and rest area videos can be seen. If you like them, please share them and you will help us make the roads safer for all. The Top Tips videos have been rereleased here and on Whiteline TV and have had some get excellent exposure. All we want now is for the road authorities to use them for young driver education. Do you think they fit the bill?

There was a fellow on site selling stickers and I had a lady come and tell me they had been selling them with Channel 18 etc 75mm tall, so I set off in search to discuss this. On arrival, he said many had come along since my seminar asking for 200mm tall, so they had taken my comments and examples on board and I further explained why it was important. I left with a mutual agreement of the suggested size.

Along with my spot on Triple M at 1AM Wednesday, where we discussed engine acronyms and management systems, I was then contacted by ABC radio re “Gator treads”, a USA term for retreads coming off on the road. I spoke on the rise in CTI systems for trucks and trailers and the systems on the TIV to check tyre pressures and temperatures, but that with the sensor inside the tyre, it can be hard to get them replaced, though as the systems and parts improve, it will further extend tyre life and reduce failures. It all depends of course on whether you buy premium tyres and or retreads or the cheapest and how well you maintain them and both check them and pressures regularly.

I then did a spot on 4 RO in Rockhampton Thursday afternoon when travelling through in response to a call for “What are you doing now” and was given a fair go talking about the videos of the top tips, hoping to help educate young drivers and some of our issues on the road. So got to some motorists, some motorhomers and now to get back to HVNL Review paper number 7 due on the 30th and then the senate inquiry, now extended to the 8th November. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

19th October 2019 CMCA National Rally.

Goodaye all. It has been a cool day here in Melbourne. Every time I planned to get the truck washed it rained, so it will not be its’ best for tomorrow unfortunately. I have spent the day catching up, submitting number 6 submission to the NTC HVNL Review, working on number 7, Effective Enforcement and that is up to page 5 so far with more to do. It is due at the end of the month. I had started my submission to the senate enquiry which was due Thursday just gone, but there has been an extension to 8th November, so I will have a bit more time to extend and detail it better.

Any of you who want things improved, do not miss the chance to have a say. I have just spent a couple of hours going through the current submissions, 15 so far I think and whilst there are some saying virtually only that nothing will change, there are a couple of very detailed and valuable submissions and with the extension, I urge any with trucking knowledge and passion to contribute.

Importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry

On 11 September 2019, the Senate moved that the following matter be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by April 2020.

Some audio book reviews, replies to emails and a bit of surfing and chasing industry news and stories, tuna and rice crackers for lunch, rice cream and fruit for tea. Had plenty of food with me, so lived out of the truck, but had use of the depot, good for out of the rain.

Will be off in the morning to Elmore for the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) National Rally doing a workshop in front of the TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle and then a seminar inside. One of the members saw me at the “Stone the Crows” festival in Wagga and invited me to attend. CMCA is the largest group of RVers with I believe over 30,000 members and their own magazine “The Wanderer” which I have had articles in over the years.

I have attended a couple of previous rallies, but many years ago and the last, only by car as the engine in the Kenworth needed some warranty overhaul work. Always better with the TIV there.

Thanks as always to Rod Pilon Transport for arranging the work to get me here.

It has been a bugger of a week, with a flat steer tyre, luckily I had enough time and space to stop safely on a turn off lane, but needed some help and a tyre as by the time I stopped, it was down on the rim, but no further damage.

Must have been something on the road, there was a mark on the inside, but saw nothing prior to the deflation and found nothing on the road or in the tyre?
That held me up a bit, but a rubbed through radiator hose did much more damage to my time. It was of course hot and as my parts procurer and mechanical assistant is a bigger fellow than me, I was the one to get under the truck and there is not much room. Covered in coolant etc, but due to the delay was not able to load that night as planned and that made the next day a long one. The joys of trucking.

Those in the depots helped, loading me again in Dubbo so I could have a feed etc and then a bit of fun in Melbourne at a drop where it was a bit tight, but again, all good, just fun getting out. Loading completed and back to the depot for a top up, but all gone home, no problem.

A good night’s sleep last night caught me up and keen to chat and disseminate tomorrow, then unload Parkes Monday and see what the world of transport will deliver for next week. Till then, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

13th October 2019 Hello again.

Goodaye all. Two Mondays ago, I had a plan to sleep in, do my blog etc, then ring work for a loading time as the other truck was loading at 9AM, normally the first slot for outsiders, so I was to be sometime after that. At 7.05 AM, I got a call, “You have to load at 8AM”. “When did you find this out?” was my reply. “Just now, they sent the details after we left Friday, sorry.”

It was a scramble, but I made it. The week just rolled on from there with little room for blogging or much else. Coming into Brisbane last Thursday (having confirmed when leaving Toowoomba I would be loading in Brisbane, topping up in Warwick, then drops at Moree and home) I got another call. “When will you be in Sydney?” “I am not going to Sydney.” “Yes you are now and I need to know when you can load?” “I will work it out and get back to you.” When loading in Brissie, I asked can I unload Monday? Reply, buckleys. Thanks.

Suffice to say, the next two days were a lot of fun, not. Got into Sydney, M7 entry closed, so having had just enough time to get to one place, had to settle for the other. How do you plan for such things when you don’t live there? Not the best spot for good sleep either, but what do you do? Two drops, out early for Newcastle I thought, rang to say will be on time to load, but with most of the population of Sydney leaving too, so well over an hour to get from the depot onto Pennant Hills Road alone.

Rang again on the way, sorry delays, will be 10 to 15 minutes late, not good, will call them, damn. In to load, they all want to go home, funny that eh? Loaded, weights and freight not as I asked, but they were keen to get away, further discussions about now doing a drop on the way, maybe, check with work, yes if OK with me. Finished loading and went to loo, came out, everyone gone and gate locked. Stood in the middle of the yard yelling “Hello”, no answer. Luckily gate was only dummy locked when I went to check.

On the road and off to Narrabri for a shower and bed late that night. With holiday Monday and time available, attended the Narrabri Truckshow on Saturday. The first there for a number of years and supported by the town and many local businesses, well done to all, 63 trucks in attendance and a good first show and will only grow and expand. Due to restrictions of space and access, only trucks, no trailers allowed, so could not display the TIV with trailers. Did some touch up painting, enjoyed some good discussions, a couple of “thank yous” for my efforts, photos and then on the road with one stop along the way to clean some guide posts (where there were still some old blue reflectors) arriving in Roma after midnight.

Sunday morning, offered a couple of Green Reflector Bay posters to the servo there, grabbed a coffee and off. Did a drop to a mine on Sunday evening (the extra one asked about Friday), what a bit of road, 20 kph too fast for the corrugations for about 4 kilometres, and that after going to the other one, similar name but different and the instructions had left out a turn. Then being told on arrival, that’s not us, it is down the road a bit, no you can’t turn round inside, you will have to do it out there. Not easy, not impressed, not very helpful, “Thanks for that”! Pulled up late that night for bed.

Did more painting Monday, cleaned inside truck, caught up on reading, did shopping, then unload Tuesday. I do not have an internet connection in the truck, simply another bill I don’t need and can’t justify for the odd time needed. Normally do all the extras at home or in depots, but not these last two weeks. Home finally today after getting sopping wet in Brisbane loading Friday, just made it into Tamworth, unloaded and on my break now and off tomorrow to load for Melbourne.

Next week won’t be home for long, I have been invited to do a talk and have a truck display at the CMCA National Rally on Sunday. If all goes to plan, let’s hope, I may be able to let you know how it went next week.
Any of you vaguely interested in trucks and road safety might consider putting in a submission to the current Senate inquiry. Glen Sterle from WA got it up and whilst we still have the NTC led HVNL review underway, every chance to contribute can only help. Wil it change things? Let’s hope. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

22nd September 2019

Goodaye all. Short and sweet this week. A big week on the road, reports to TMR and Vicroads, separate comments back from Vicroads about marking some sites on the Hume with green reflectors, a report written on the Toowoomba Second range crossing to go to the QTA for comments first, then others.

Need to do a new list for RMS for the Newell and an even longer list for TMR for the Gore Highway. Some green reflectors replaced here and there with one young lady policeman asking me was I OK walking along the highway with a torch. I explained the reason and she was happy to learn and then pass on the intent.

Working on HVNL review document 6, only three to complete, but then need to do one for the senate inquiry.

Looking for sponsors, minor and major for the next TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle, all welcome. Plan to have on the road next year. I want to thank all who have helped so far and have done testimonials for some and happy to do for those who participate.

Trailers due for rego soon, so machinery inspections this week. Now 11 years old, 9 wheels still on original brake linings at 2.2 million kilometres. No major failures, obviously usual wear and tear, but I have had people comment the trailers still look good for their age and the curtains still deliver a positive message.

Vawdrey trailers, Attards curtains, these ones 8 years old now, BPW suspensions, NARVA lights, ANCRA winches, Groeneveld Auto Greasers, Alcoa wheels, Jost turntables, Checkweigh scales, 3M conspicuity tapes and originally Michelin tyres, all contributed in one way or another and outstanding service and reliability from each and everyone. Thanks to each of you for your part in helping get this on the road. There are other sponsors for the truck and will cover them next week.

The best addition to these curtains over the first set, was the Australian Heavy Vehicle Combinations panel, showing types of trucks on our roads. At the time this set of curtains was designed by myself, the Australian Roadtrain Association (which later merged with NATROAD) had set up the combinations list with just roadtrain types and I asked permission to extend that list. Kenworth trucks, as featured on all the prime movers, spent a lot of time getting it right and I thank them for that. So many have taken photos of the panel, commented on it and or wanted copies over the years, I am so glad I went to the trouble to get it set up right.

Some have asked about other combinations, eg PBS and A doubles etc, but there is such a long list, I had to keep it simple, yet cover the most common configurations on the roads. You can copy the panel from my website http://www.truckright.com.au
Till next time, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

15th September 2019 The USA and Us.

Goodaye all. I will be off to work in a few hours and last week, came across this post from young Wendy. Wendy rides with her partner in the USA and writes this piece for Landline magazine and to be fair, this is the complete piece. So I am sharing it with you, but have contacted Wendy as well telling her of my intent. I did have the pleasure of meeting her at the Great American Truck Show (GATS) in Dallas last year at the end of my Churchill Fellowship trip. She can be funny and yet conveys many important messages. What she speaks of here rings so true with many of our problems and should make us think and try harder, to be not only heard, but listened to. How we do that, is the big question.

“It’s almost like lawmakers didn’t listen”
SEPTEMBER 6, 2019 Wendy Parker
When I was a kid there was one phrase my momma used (often) to freeze me in my tracks and listen.
She’d sneak up on me and my brothers like a well-trained ninja and at just the moment any of us (mostly me) did something stupid she’d appear out of thin air to question our complete understanding of how decent human beings are supposed to act with one simple query.
“What in the world is wrong with you?
Woe be unto the offender if it was followed up by, “You better look at me when I’m talking to you,” because the answer could be, “My hair is on fire,” and it wouldn’t matter. Whatever was done in the process of catching your own fool hair on fire was an affront to the general population and, most importantly, something momma couldn’t fathom.
My mom is the kind of parent who would pat out the flames, put some Mercurochrome on the open wounds, and promptly whip a hind-end for playing with matches.
(Side note: Anyone else remember Mercurochrome? I believe it was made of lemon juice and battery acid, mixed with fire ant venom and enough orange dye No. 2 left over to paint your toenails. Pretty sure it was outlawed in the Geneva Convention as “cruel and unusual.”)
I was reminded of the terror momma’s simple question invoked in me as a child while chatting with her a couple weeks ago. Our conversation wandered to trucking, like it always does. She asked, “Honey, why do all these big trucks just pull over to the side of the highway to park? It’s so dangerous.”
I explained to her about the ELD, hours of service and lack of parking all being contributors. She asked, “Well, who makes those rules?”
I told her the FMCSA enacts and enforces rules made by politicians.
I was unprepared when she whipped out the dreaded question, “Well what in the world is wrong with them?”
Of course, her question was rhetorical this time, but it got me thinking about some things.
Trucking’s hair is on fire, and truck drivers didn’t have anything to do with setting it aflame. It’s almost like professional drivers told lawmakers how bad things could get and they didn’t listen.
Trucking advocates asked lawmakers to “look at us” when we were talking to them about the devastating effects enacting the ELD rule would have without amending the HOS. They need to listen. The lawmakers countered with, “It will increase compliance which in turn will save lives.”
Cue a Maury Povich voice-over, because that’s how I imagine this information should be presented to lawmakers: “In the case of HOS Compliance Equates to Safety, the numbers gathered since forced ELD implementation reveal: That is a lie.”
Well isn’t that special? Let’s carry on.
Trucking advocates asked for mandatory driver training rules to make sure new drivers were properly trained. The powers-that-be agreed and set about an arduous process of gathering information with which to craft effective, comprehensive laws regarding driver training.
In my best Morgan Freeman voice, because this sad soliloquy is worthy of Freeman’s vocal timbre: “After many, many hours of unpaid time and travel, the recommendations made by a committee of transportation professionals were almost completely ignored. Further insult was added by failing to require any physical behind-the-wheel requirements in mandatory training. The driver training rule was, in fact, reduced to little more than lip service that will end up taking half a decade to come to fruition.”
Oh my.
And just in case there needed to be more fuel added to the hair-on-fire status, for many years trucking advocates have insisted to anyone who would listen that detention time was one of the most pressing issues in the industry.
Again, lawmakers assured, “An ELD will help drivers get paid for detention time. It will also even the playing field and drive up rates.”
In my best Oprah voice, because she once epitomized the frantic jubilation of unfettered screaming joy: “Who wants an HOS exemption?! Does everyone want one? YES! Does it completely undermine the rules to give out multiple exemptions? WHO CARES? Here’s an exemption, and here’s an exemption! Level playing field? What’s that? We’re giving EXEMPTIONS!”
“Level playing field” is a stupid business term and it is impossible to achieve while outside forces (like slow-poke shippers and receivers) aren’t held responsible for screwing up the flow of commerce by keeping drivers for ridiculous amounts of (often unpaid) time.
Well whaddya know? Drivers have been telling lawmakers this very thing for many years now.
They didn’t listen.
So to answer your question momma, what’s wrong is, we have lawmakers who believe more regulation is the answer, when in fact, it is not. And until we can convince the folks in charge of making rules that compliance does not equal safety, you will continue to see trucks parked on the side of the highway and hear of trucking companies closing the doors.”

Rod again. So does some of this ring true in Australia, yes it does? We have the current HVNL review underway here and I have just got submission number 5 in late and started on 6 and at 7 or 8 hours per submission, with 8 due in total, who will pay me a week and half’s wages for my time? How many drivers will make the effort, or simply, don’t have the time available, let alone be able to meet the deadlines.

Now we have a Senate Enquiry, another chance to get heard, lets hope, but I also spent an hour or so responding to West Australias’ Transport Dept request for input into their road safety strategy. How many times do we have to tell them, yet do they listen? We must keep trying, but Wendy covers it with some down to earth words of wisdom. If only we could get the lawmakers to listen to her too. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

8th September 2019 Where do we sleep?

Goodaye all. There has been a number of crashes, as unfortunately happens each week and people die on our roads. One was a very well known and high profile truckie with immaculate equipment. None of us was there and until a proper crash investigation is done, I will not comment further on the specifics, but want to raise a couple of issues that may have some relevance.

How and where we park, where we can get good quality sleep and rest in trucks on the road, is both much restricted and then controlled by those who do not have to do it themselves. We must manage our fatigue, yet don’t have enough rest areas, we get big fines for breaking fatigue laws, yet those laws can allow you to drive when you should not and yet, expect you to sleep when not tired or not in a suitable place to get good sleep. If you were a cynical truckie, you would say, we can’t win.

The following is from a document I sent to the RTA and Transport Minister in 2003. It is one of a number, including a complete list of sites on the Pacific Highway. There was a time when I would get a call each month from yet another driver asking me what I was going to do about the lack of truck rest areas on the Pacific Highway. I rang, I wrote, I emailed and I did try, but here we are in 2019 and the problem is worse now. What more can I do?

NSW Truck Rest Areas.

Truck rest areas in NSW do not currently provide for all truckdrivers, to rest and manage their fatigue as well as would be possible, with improvements and better facilities required in some areas and additional truck rest areas in others. Shade is also critically lacking and without shade structures being provided, (because trees have not been planted and shade addressed sufficiently in the past), will take years to provide, even if trees were planted tomorrow.

Car rest areas have seen much improvement and should have included improved truck rest areas as well, to see best facilities provided for all, at least cost, but this has not been the case. Car rest areas are little used at night and are designed to keep trucks out, thereby increasing costs to road authorities in providing facilities for both car and truck drivers. Car drivers are more likely to park with trucks at night where they feel more secure, so car facilities are virtually all wasted at night.

Major Highways. Hume Highway facilities are not on a par with those in Victoria, though they too lack shade. The most recent additional truck rest area constructed at Bookham has provided a large area, but at a ridiculous incline that sees any driver fool enough to park there, fall to the floor if he should roll over. A disappointing result, for both those that payed for it and for those it was built for. There has been some improvement in others with holes filled in, but surfaces are still sometimes, dirt. The improvements to the southbound site just out of Sydney have seen less room available, but better facilities. Herringbone parking, whilst it can fit more trucks in, also provides more noise and less amenity. The biggest issue on the Hume is the continuing lack of action over a changeover facility required at Tarcutta, that will see improvements to safety for all on this road.

The Pacific Highway is the most in need of additional facilities. There were insufficient spots before it was opened up to b-doubles, particularly from Port Macquarie to the border and then on to Brisbane. Many drivers have been forced to drive on, because bays are too small and too few for the volume of traffic. Town by-passes are also removing more current sites, with no immediate replacement and the Kempsey by-pass (dependant on which route is chosen) will be a decisive factor, in both current and future facilities. There is a need to immediately provide additional truck rest areas and to plan for future traffic and to provide a changeover facility for future increases in traffic volume. The problem has existed since before being opened to b- doubles and is now critical. Drivers have seen no physical response and are then somewhat cynical of talk of better road safety, when nothing is seen to be done to address the rest area issue.

Newell Highway. Much has been done on the northern end with sealing and providing tables and chairs in a number of sites, though shade is an even more critical need in the heat here. New facilities at North Star in the north and Beckom, with another under construction at Gillenbah in the south, are much appreciated. The Pilliga though, from Narrabri to Coonabarabran has three sites within 3 kilometres at Coonabarabran and then nothing on the northbound side for 100 kilometres, with three small sites on the southbound side within the Pilliga, not providing sufficient capacity.

I have since tried hard to get something done and must say, have even been criticised for banging on about not enough rest areas by some. We now have better truck rest area guidelines and I contributed to the first ones more than 15 years ago and was not happy with the outcome, but could do no more at the time.

I asked for this update and it took a while, but I will specifically thank Mr Paul Retter, the past CEO of the National Transport Commission for pushing and getting the guidelines updated and yes, I contributed many hours in writing and on the phone to see them done. I was disappointed there was not more driver contribution, but we are better off now with guidelines available for those who are responsible to build truck rest areas.

Now I will continue to bang on for more rest areas, but will also seek guidelines for Stopping Bays so we do not get useless bits of bitumen you can stop on, but still only be 100 centimetres from 100 kph traffic. Wire rope barriers are good to stop you hitting trees, but how can you pull up for any reason, change a tyre, get a repair done or God forbid, need a Powernap, yet have nowhere safe to do it?

What must we do to get safe places to sleep? How many more drivers will die, till we have suitable and sufficient truck rest areas in Australia? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

1st September 2019 Happy Fathers Day.

Goodaye all and Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads. I hope you either spent time with and or heard from your children. It is one of the biggest downsides of this job, the life we lead away from our families and then, when we get to see them, we are not needed, because they have learnt to live without us. Many families spend time apart, but there are few jobs that both take us away and then tear our lives apart, from those we love.

I had hoped to catch up with my first boss from over 40 years ago on my last trip. When I rang, he was heading south down the centre and I was heading north up the coast. We thought maybe on the way home for each. He wanted to get home in one day and I had all the Mt Isa freight on and work was waiting for me and the freight to get that driver on his way. We did speak on the phone and wave as we passed each other nearing Dubbo.

In one of the conversations, interrupted by our marvellous phone signal strength issues, he asked how many children I have. When I said seven, he said, “What did you say” and I said, “seven” and he said, “That was what I thought you said, so you must have got home sometimes.” “Yes, my wife used to miss me while I was gone, but now she doesn’t want me there at all.”

It is not that bad, nor is it something that makes me happy for the job I have and the life I lead. We all have choices and sometimes we take a path and it is hard to change it later. Even if I wanted to, I simply can’t take a year off and reskill or get another job or profession. I will be honest, that with the time I have put into TRUCKRIGHT and my road safety hobby, I would also then be walking away from what has kept me sane and focused on not thinking about what I could be doing, with my family.

Now it is too late and I am yet to find the way to make it better. I still have a dream of having a truck and trailer on the road, working part time and doing my road safety with more time for family. But I will retire with little more than the thanks of the few drivers who recognise my efforts. It is not about, woe is me, or that anyone held a gun to my head to put the time in, it is what it is and I will keep trying to find the solution, to find my mentor with lots of money who loves trucks.

I have just sat and watched a movie with my daughter and it has made me a bit thoughtful, maybe even a bit maudlin and I hope you don’t take it too much as a whinge, as simply my thoughts at the moment. I wish I could find a way to solve all the industries problems, my own and my childrens’ as well, but nothing will change if everybody waits for it to happen and does nothing themselves.
I will plan to be more upbeat next week. But there is more!

I have just finished my reply to issue paper 4, of the NTC Heavy Vehicle National Law Review, Safe People and Practises. The following is my last question response.

Question 11: How can the future HVNL nurture a culture that places a high level of importance on safety?
Some of this is covered in the answer above, some of it will depend on the outcome of this review and whether drivers are given the chance to really and truly contribute. We are the ones on the road, we are the ones who have to live the life, from car drivers brake checking us because they have seen a bad crash blamed on trucks on television. We are the ones whose lives are risked by the stupidity of car drivers who will risk our lives and theirs to save 5 seconds on a trip.

In responding to Safe People and Practises, it must be said that even if we prevented every crash where a truck was at fault, we would only make a small impact on the road toll, yet if we prevented every crash involving a truck but caused by a car driver, we would make a big impact. We would save truckies lives, save the lives of many motorists and prevent many more injuries. I am not saying we don’t need to do more, we do and I will acknowledge the NHVR, in now getting behind such efforts to show some of these issues and aiming to educate the public, but it has been there for so long and ignored by all bar a few for years. Rest areas are still insufficient, the number of caravans putting more pressure on these facilities and the ridiculous laws and penalties issued to safe, fit and awake drivers who have managed their fatigue, only to be told, it is not legal, has possibly done more to kill drivers and destroy their lives and families for many years.

I still believe many drivers are still not aware of the review and many others have complained it is too onerous to contribute. I welcome the recent announcement of easy access through the ATA and Big Rigs and hope this will encourage more drivers to contribute. Thank You, Rod Hannifey.

And now, having spent the time to read and write this submission, I had difficulty submitting it through the website. Yes, submissions were due to close Friday, but I have better things to do than fight with a website. I have submitted it direct via email and with only 4 submissions on Safe People and Safe Practises, would you say it has been well received? Not on your life. How much money are we paying for this review and if only 4 people have responded, are we getting value for that money? I don’t think so. Safe travelling, Rod Hannifey.

25th August 2019 Two weeks on the road.

Goodaye all. Sorry for missing last week, I left thinking I was going to Melbourne and back to Dubbo, but things change. Dubbo, Melbourne, Sydney (5 hours to unload at a DC, we will come back to this), Newcastle, Brisbane, Mackay (24 hour plus break, catching up on reading, some shopping and cleaning out the toolbox), Townsville, Mt Isa, Brisbane and home yesterday. Good to see some different roads, got some nice calls and comments from drivers (some asking was I lost?) and from customers. Being told mine was the best load ever delivered to one site was nice, but the comments on the truck and the curtains from those who have not seen them before, really makes it worthwhile for at least some of the effort put in.

Many have recently asked how long I have been in this truck and what am I doing about another one. This truck was 8 years old in July and the trailers will be 11 years old in October. They were ordered at the ATA Convention in Newcastle in 2008. Designing the first set of curtains and getting all the sponsors co-ordinated to supply their pieces and have it all done while still working fulltime was fun and I still hope to have the first set of curtains on another set of trailers and then set it all up as a BAB quad and then hope to sell you all photos, so I can afford to buy the next one and do more than I can now.
As you might then imagine, I have a lot of catching up to do and still have to finish my submission to the fourth HVNL review paper. But I will list a few bits from the last two weeks for comments and interest.

I got to my DC timeslot in Sydney after having to run to make the loading time in Melbourne, only told when nearly out of time to get there, then a call on the way from the prime contractor who asked, “Will you be there for a 5AM timeslot? No, the timeslot was only decided once I got loaded and was set for 10AM! No one told us, that should be OK. Thanks.” Then outside the gate on time in a que of well over 20 trucks. I rang and was told, “We will get to you.” Nearly 3 hours to get to the boom gate and not once, were any that I spoke to, told of what the problem was. Then on a dock and I thought all good, then sat there for another hour and a half waiting for someone to start unloading me.

I went to the office to ask what was going on and of course, the afternoon shift blamed the morning shift and could not tell me why I had waited 5 hours. I did leave a card and say I would be following up and was keen to have an explanation, rather than just complain. Things go wrong, but 5 hours. If I am more than 30 minutes late and 15 minutes at some sites, I am told, “You are late, you will have to rebook” and when you complain or try to explain, you are told, “That’s your problem.” How one sided is that? Until DCs are held to account for such delays, they will continue to abuse our time and use us as free storage and labour. Who will do something about this?

The USA were to bring in a law that delays of more than an hour or more at a DC would require payment of detention fees. Who do you think stopped that, the big companies of course? Had it got up there, I had hoped to find a way to get the same here, but how and who will do it? I will pursue the DC for an answer.

Had a shower at the BP in Townsville, still being refurbished after the massive flooding earlier in the year, had backpackers try to get in while I was in the bloody shower and then even before I got out the door. Walked back to the truck and said Goodaye to another driver, then saw he had a flat. Went and told him and he too had just got out of the shower and was suitably unimpressed. He said he might need a bit of a hand after his boss said, change it. He thought he had all the gear but was missing a brace bar, so I stayed and helped before I headed to Mt Isa.

Good to see many blue reflectors along the road to Mt Isa, but very small and seemingly not being maintained. I rang TMR in Mt Isa and was directed back to Cloncurry and with many green reflectors in Roma, done by a previous TMR Warwick man who helped me years ago and then moved to Roma and did a heap of sites there, I got a contact email for both and will pursue them both. More to do.

I wish I did not have to chase every district, state and still can’t find anyone in a position of authority in any state road agency, who will see the value and do some thing to have the green reflector marking of informal truck bays done properly. It is cheap, effective and will save lives till one day we have enough truck rest areas. There are now a couple more sites done here and there, but the logbook and the new camera system will not give anyone the time needed to do it all alone.

Leaving the Blue Heeler pub after tea there, in the next 5 hours, I saw one ute, one semi, one b-double and 12 triple roadtrains. Watching a truck for 15 minutes coming towards you across a flat terrain is different, even from the times when the Newell is quiet. The roos started at Longreach and missing dozens of others, I got one, the first to ever have an impact on the CTI system on the truck. The bloke at Kynuna obviously jinxed me, as he wanted to know all about the CTI, Central Tyre Inflation system on the drive tyres and asked, did I have trouble with roos. Luckily I had some spare bits.

I have said before any truck running the Newell will have less than half the life and or twice the wear and tear of any running the Hume and now the Pacific. There is work being done on the Newell, the Bruce and the Warrego, but there is a long way to go till we have the roads we have paid for and had that money spent on other things. Yes trucks use the road, we deliver to YOU! We deliver your food, your fuel, your clothes, car parts and things so you have a job to do and an income to earn. If you have to be safe at work, why is the road, as our workplace, not required to be safe for us to do our job?

I see the railways saying how hard it is to make a quid and that they are more efficient, but want all user charges removed to be able to compete with road. The thing is, they have their own “road”. It may well need better maintenance, but no one else uses it. Not only do you and every other car driver use the roads we too use, you are not taught to share it with us. I cannot go into any workplace, without being inducted and told what to do and how to act, often beyond simple common sense, (and that is a whole other discussion) but we share the road with you as motorists, yet you are not taught how to share it with us and unless you have been in a truck, do you really understand trucks?

There were at times during the day, more caravans on the road than trucks and I must say those who stopped in truck bays, mostly seemed to have made the effort to park off the bitumen and give us room. I called up a number of vans, some who did the right thing and tried to help or moved over, some answered and then, if no sign on the van, I asked if they had considered a sign showing they were on UHF 40. Most said thanks and it was a good idea. One fellow moved right off the road, yet we were in an overtaking lane so two lanes to use and he still moved over the fog line. I did explain that was not the best thing to do and why and he thanked me for the info.

I could go on, but have to catch up on other things yet, so will wish you all Safe Travelling. I will be on the road Monday to Melbourne and will take my computer and camera, to ensure I will be straight back, a bit of reverse psychology perhaps. Cheers Rod.