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.

14th October 2018. What am I doing?

Goodaye all. Following on from last week, what can I do? Well, I have sent a list to my RMS contact thanking him for some repairs I asked to be done, complaining of those done that have failed and suggesting I am about ready to start making a lot more noise about the impacts on the Newell between Narrabri and Goondiwindi, the most and worst impacts in one section of “highway” in Australia.

I have written to the NHVR direct with a list of concerns and requests, some of which are ongoing and some of which are serious in nature, some only minor. I wrote to the Minister about the upcoming Strategy for the Newell, asking where did all the effort go I put into the last one and did get a reply back, saying that effort will be part of the data.

I am chasing the green reflector informal truck bay posters NHVR have before another minister awaiting approval, so I can put them up in roadhouses along the Newell and finally, after only 19 years, complete something so simple, cheap and effective, it should be across Australia. I have spoken with a couple of others who support the green reflectors and offered comment and I have replied to the welcome Facebook page by TMR about them, but they have not replied.

I am working on a caravan reviver idea for Dubbo next year, will be involved in filming next week for a road safety with trucks effort, will be near joyfully happy, when we get the “TRUCKIES TOP TEN TIPS” filmed in the new year to be available to schools and others to see something finally done, on educating motorists about sharing the road with trucks.

I am asking members of road authorities why they are so precious about us using their stockpile sites and is it not better to have a tired driver able to stop, when we do not have and I honestly doubt, will have in my lifetime, suitable and sufficient truck rest areas for us to safely manage our fatigue, let alone the rules to give us a fair go.

I am asking why there is all stick and no carrot in anyone’s dealing with drivers, another driver has sent me his tale of woe and yet another, who is trying to do something positive, found he has been ignored, so I have offered another idea to try.

I am waiting to win the Lotto of find someone who will help me make the next and last TIV, the best as I can’t do it alone. I just need someone who loves trucks more than money. I am trying to catch up on my reading here, as I have a bag full of books for the USA etc to go through from my trip and others yet to email. I did email and put in a submission to the FMCSA in the US and emailed the Washington Dept of Transport about the rest area with no bins.

I have just done my Facebook “Audiobooks for the road” page, now the blog and next my column for Owner Driver and then will have to get ready for work, hoping to get some repairs done tomorrow, before being on the road to Melbourne for a timeslot Tuesday morning, where I have qued from the road for over two hours, to even get to the gate previously.

I am tired and frustrated, need a dentist and the time and money to get to one and wish I was a better Father and there more for my family. This has become not just a job, but a hobby and a passion and at times, it is soul destroying when you cannot get one bit of road fixed, that is simply, dangerous and it seems, no one else (except for the drivers who have to live with all this) cares.

We spend too much time alone on the road, to do nothing and I truly believe, what I do can make a difference and save a life and it has kept me sane, but the other unseen impacts, I will have to live with for the rest of my life and will probably never understand them all, or how they have impacted others close to me. I am trying. Maybe I will have to think more on the answers to these problems. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

7th October 2018 Who is the danger?

Goodaye all. I have just read of the dangerous nature of our industry. Strange how we can be killed and maimed and pushed and treated like animals for years and now we must be made safe. All the experts now agree it is terrible. Yet why do all these experts have all the say, when those involved have been ignored for years?

So many times drivers have tried to be involved, to contribute and yet even more so, many have said no one will listen when they do. If I was a cynical bugger, I would say that there have been times we have been excluded from such opportunities to contribute by the way such requests were made to us. I have complained to all and sundry over the years that drivers need to be made aware of the chance to contribute in a timely way and in a way, they are comfortable to do so.

Putting out requests in industry press that reaches us after the closing date or not far from it, so we learn of the request too late to even consider it, only allowing written input, when I struggle to explain things in person, how can you explain it in writing, to some one who does not do the job?

Yes there have been meetings arranged and promoted at times and I have managed to attend some over time, but no one will pay me or any other driver to attend. I could lose nearly a weeks pay to drive to such a meeting, accommodation so I am not fatigued to drive home and when I have not been listened to before, why would I do that again?

I have asked drivers to attend meetings as I can’t go to all and do not want to be the only one who does at times and had them treated like scum and looked down upon by those conducting such meetings, only to be told by the driver afterwards, “I will never do that again, so don’t ever ask me to do it again!” I have even been abused over the phone for having the audacity to give out the phone number for a major entity when drivers say to me it is hard to explain in writing and so I said, give them a call.

Yes, it is hard to get to us. We are so widespread in our industry, we have ten different sectors or more, we are spread across the country with less and less facilities, far too few rest areas, let alone decent ones and we are blamed for the majority of crashes in the press and the figures they use are based to only make us look the bad guy every time.

Why is this industry the most dangerous? Our roads, our vehicles and other drivers all have known and in some ways, seemingly ignored contributions. With some of the impacts I hit each week, it is a true wonder we do not have more equipment failures on the road. Who else monitors that and do any road authorities have anything in place, let alone the funds to fix this. I have been told many things, from if the road is not visually broken, then it is not a problem, to it is a major repair and we don’t have the money to fix it.

When I have rang to complain of a bit of road, I have been told “It does not meet our intervention levels” and when I have offered data from the truck to verify how bad the impact is into the truck, been told that is not relevant! Yes I have had many bits fixed, some within days, weeks and some, such as one corner in Queensland, I have been asking to have fixed for well over 4 years and did get a phone call just last week to be told it is now allocated for repair, NEXT financial year.

What has been done in the last 20 years to help educate other drivers, those in cars responsible for the vast majority of crashes between cars and trucks? Very little. Years ago I suggested a video at time of licensing and did do such a video, but was told the authorities did not have tv screens available. A few years later I complained again about the lack of questions in learner driver handbooks and there was a change to include at least two questions relating to trucks, but that is still simply not enough.

What more can I do and what needs to be done? Next week my answers, but I would welcome your views. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

29th September 2018 Sydney and Adelaide for a change.

Goodaye all. A divergent week after a normal type start, loading Monday and delivering in Melbourne Tuesday, then load Bulk DG for a turf farm in Windsor out the end of Sydney. Get to the end of the road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and a No Through Road on the left, no name for the business I am looking for, but being very early in the morning after a long drive, I imagined then I should go right. Bad move. Travel along to find the street numbers dwindling when I had hoped they would go higher and the road getting narrower and no cross roads visible, so found a wide driveway into another farm and did a three point turn just managing to miss the one telegraph pole, right at the opposite side, the gutter on one side and the deep drain on the other.

Back up to the junction to find no name, but a street number in the dark just past the No Through Road sign. MMMMM, can’t stop on the road, so in to the NO Thru with trepidation and to bed. Not even asleep and a toot toot, up and look out, you can’t park there, drive down to the farm. Yeh right, off after him and a bloke would not drive down there in a car not knowing what was ahead and I am in something somewhat bigger. I hit the powerlines with the aerials on the truck trying to get around the corner, hit the trees getting down the road and then parked up and went to bed.

Unloaded later that morning and then some phone problems after that, me and the bill issues, then into Sydney and load for Adelaide. Barely get in the gate off the road to load even from the wrong side of the road and then a que of trucks pulls up behind and glares at me as I load my b-double with a full load. Don’t rush I’m told, they will just have to wait, but they can’t get round me or back out now, so they glare as I try to hurry safely. I would not have been happy waiting an hour. Two forks on me now (and found later one had hit the back of the plastic guard and bent the mudflap bracket after I had just fixed the other side last week from another forkie) and off to Adelaide.

Another road to continue my listing of truck rest areas, informal truck bays etc, so a good thing that way as well. After some big sections with either lots of stupidly sized and painted, yet ridiculously too small painted shoulder bays, or good rest areas with gaps or nothing at all for miles and after finding a spot south of Mildura to sleep in, I then ran on into Adelaide. Unloading all good and getting fuel with an issue with the new truck GPS system that hopefully won’t come back and bite me, but the fellows with the crane and witches hats I had to get around, seemed impressed I missed them, with much thumbs up going on.

Coming up out of Adelaide I was musing on the roughness of the road on the Sturt Highway northbound went over a crest and whoa, it felt like 4 hits together, what a ride, probably with the wheels off the ground and the skidmarks which followed this engineering marvel, attest to the fact someone else had a serious issue with it too. I did have some other things on my mind like managing my hours to get home in time for trailer machinery inspections, so it was the next day before I rang to lodge a complaint. I did speak with another driver during the night who said, yes I know that bit and use the other lane. I asked had he complained and suggested he did, as he is on that road every week.

When I rang I mentioned the fact I thought it was the biggest impact in the last 5 years and I was concerned. To the credit of the gentleman I spoke with, he rang back asking had I seen the rough surface signs and I did not recall them, but that the way I described it, they could not just patch it and he had ramped it up to a major repair. I had offered my name and number initially and he asked could he pass that on if needed and I agreed and will hope to save some other poor bugger from such an impact. I was driving and so could not take details from him, but he texted me an incident number and I will follow up in two weeks. Any of you who know the road and issue I speak of, I would welcome any comments and support of the repair please.

Got home, machineries done, a few minor repairs as I went straight there and then the accelerator died again as per last week. In the scheme of things, at least I was in Dubbo and had the inspections done and was loaded. Still got it back to the yard and had it fixed for now with some more work to follow hopefully next week.

Whilst loading the young lady spoke of her plans for the long weekend. Ah yes, that would be nice, but with the holiday only in NSW, I get to go to work Sunday like normal to be able to do a timeslot in Melbourne early Monday after unloading the back trailer, so yes, a long week end would have been nice. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

22nd September 2018. Short and Sweet?

 

Goodaye all. Short and sweet this week. How much do any of you know about “Chain of Responsibility” or even “Safe Rates”. Are they both media catch cries you have heard in relation to road transport, but not understood? Are they relevant to you in your job, or do they resonate with your OH&S workplace guidelines or are similarly about your pay and conditions?

The “Chain of Responsibility” came in over ten years ago and was meant to take all the punishment and blame, then solely placed on truckdrivers and spread that blame “up the chain” to those who pushed drivers to break the law and or put them in a no win position, saying be there or don’t ever come back for a load, but without any such proof, the driver was still the bunny caught in the headlights, when anything at all went pear shaped.

It was a marvellous concept, but very little changed. There is a new version due to come into effect on the 1st October and will it change that? I don’t know. I hope it will finally go some way to achieving what it espoused when it was legislated, but I am concerned it will only increase fines and punishment on drivers, at least in the short term, till someone further up that mysterious chain gets pinged and then just maybe, others will finally be held truly accountable.

Are we using a sledge hammer to push in a thumbscrew, or do we need to go to that level to get those up the chain, to both recognise they cannot put a driver in that no win situation with complete impunity to the consequences, but that they must bear some of that responsibility when they contribute to the problem, howsoever caused?

I do not know anyone in the world who goes to work to kill or be killed in their job. I hope and believe we all want to be paid a fair wage for a fair days work and that we should be safe earning that income. Monash University recently released a report saying truckies are 13 times more likely to die on the job than any other group. I had a number of radio stations ring me about it and I said, some things have improved as in all walks of life, but there are certain issues not being fully addressed.

No education of motorists about sharing the road with trucks, insufficient number, design and facilities in truck rest areas for us to always be able to safely manage our fatigue and we are the ones who have to do the work, yet those who tell us how to do it, who design and enforce the rules and penalties, have all the facilities known to man within walking distance of their executive chairs and we can’t even get shade or toilets in rest areas, let alone better roads and driver education.

It is frustrating and difficult to get such things improved, let alone completely rectified and we have the different states rules etc as well. But what do you think or know of either and is it like all things, the truth we see and read is so far from the real truth, that it is nearly too hard to find? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

16th September 2018. Northbound to Townsville and back to Brissie.

Goodaye all. I did miss our ABC radio while away, but missed my audio books too and doing a trip to Townsville is a good excuse to get back into them. I loaded out of Melbourne last week, got home Saturday, planned to get a couple of little things done Monday and was under half successful, but hit the road just after lunchtime.

I travelled through to Bundaberg that night pulling up in a suitable green reflector bay just before a cane train crossing going into Bundy and slept there. A driver called me up on the UHF just as I left to go and unload and said Luke from Nightshift had been looking for me the night before, something to do with roadworks.

I had been told to load Wednesday, hence the late leave from Dubbo, but being unloaded just after lunch Tuesday, I rang and asked could I load Tuesday and was told yes, so on to Gladstone and after reloading for Townsville, had dinner with my cousin. Then it was on to the BP at Balberra as I was to look at a load in Mackay on my way up. I rang Luke and he had a Traffic Controller on before me saying the trucks were behaving themselves tonight and it seems he had complained of some bad behaviour by truckies the night before.

I offered a view and explained some of our frustrations, asking what Traffic Controllers were taught about trucks? The two issues I have seen most, are being flagged down as if you are doing 80 in a 20 zone when you are already below the posted limit and the times when a TC will stop trucks for cars, or make you stop just to show they have the power to do so, and then let you go. I offered to talk with the TC fellow saying I was off to bed soon. He rang me and we had a quick chat, him saying he teaches new TC recruits to give trucks a fair go, but I asked was it in their training so that all learned, not just those he taught? We have agreed to work towards some improvements on both sides.

When I got up later that morning, I rang and sussed out the pick-up for the return trip and went through nearly to Townsville and pulled up to check directions to unload and found a leaking airbag. No one available to come out then, so in to unload only the find the road closed and had to go round the block, then try and get in missing a tree, bollards, an undermined road and a narrow gate.

After unloading and confirming a repair for the morning, I rang my sister and went and had tea with her and the family as it has been a long time since I had the chance to do so. Back to the truck to bed and out for a new airbag in the morning and on the way.

Some of you may have seen where I am working with Transport Certification Australia (TCA) mapping green reflector bays so that these too can be included in any truck GPS, mapping and rest area programs. The Newell is near done and as part of this trip, I have made a list of sites on the Leichardt Highway to Moonie, the Bunya Highway to Murgon, the Burnett Highway to Ban Ban Springs and then the Isis Highway to Childers. As I approached Ban Ban Springs, there was a new green reflector bay marked and I must thank the fellow from TMR there, who contacted me some time ago and we spoke of some sites in the area and he has gone on and marked them, thanks.

I then did the Bruce Highway northbound and again southbound on my way back to Brisbane, so many more to be done and I have responded to a TMR Facebook page, asking what the 3,2,1, green reflectors mean, asking them to give me someone to pursue. I aim to continue to follow up on my business cards from the Churchill trip now and will be on the road tomorrow after unloading and reloading. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

9th September 2018. The Future.

Goodaye all. I need a holiday to work on my efforts to complete my Churchill Trip, the next TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle and my family. The more you do, the more there is to do, but it is hard to do it all while you have to work in a job that means you are on the road and away from it all. Yes there is the marvellous internet, but that is another cost of both time and money and both are in short supply at the moment.

I have nearly completed my Churchill report, still have maybe 60 business cards to reply to, need to sort out which to pursue from the trip and all the rest. Then there is the future, what to do and when and how. I have some things I would love to pursue, but they will take more time and money and whilst I do have some spare time on the road, often it is time that I simply can’t use to the fullest, as I am waiting to load or unload, waiting for the truck, the customer etc.

Then of course there is the time you need for meals, showers and sleeping and again, it is not just the time to do one thing, it is the whole time it takes to stop, order, que etc and then get going again. I love what I do and it is also my hobby and my passion, as most of you who know me will agree. It is simply the issue of time and if you have a set job and hours, it is easier to arrange. As with all our laws and penalties, they are designed and policed by those who do not have to live by them themselves and I don’t think they listen and give us a fair go all the time.

Having seen the truckstops and facilities in the USA, we are not in the same league. Yes there are still not enough spaces there and not all rest areas are the same, but the scope and size of some and the facilities and regularity on some roads, is so far in front of us.

Then there is the driver shortage and what to do with that. I see a young fellow did a story saying we must focus on the positive and there is a marvellous future in the industry and that there are many opportunities for young people. That is true and it is not. If those of us who do this job because we love it are leaving, then there must be something wrong with the job. Another fellow wrote a piece saying he has told his children to stay out of trucking.

Surely there is a reason behind his comment, not just that he doesn’t like it. He is trying to help and protect his children from the life he now leads, never home, living in a truck, lousy facilities and food on the road, bad drivers who are not taught to share the road with us, always blamed by default for crashes and the loss of peoples lives and fined if he works overtime again, by those who have every facility they need within walking distance of their office chair.

I want it fixed, I want it fair and I want to help. I will be called a dreamer or worse, but I have tried and I have not yet given up, but if I tell people how good a job it is when it isn’t, am I not making it worse, because they will leave and tell others it was not what they were told it was.

I will mull this over as I travel this week and would welcome your thoughts and comments. If you are a driver, is it a good job and would you tell your kids to do it? If you are a member of the public, how do you see us? If you are a person involved with our laws and or policing them, how do you see your role and how it affects us? Do all of you recognise what we contribute to your way of life and or what we give up in our lives, so you can enjoy yours. It has been said that the Australian economy used to ride on the back of the sheep, that was years ago.

A journalist said to me it now rides on the back of a truck, yet we seem to be maligned, tarred by the actions of the few and not recognised nor appreciated for the job we do, hence my questions to you. I would welcome your views. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

2nd September 18 Back in the land of OZ.

Goodaye all, it is good to be back home in this great southern land. It is hard to describe how I feel, elated from the trip, sorry it is over, good to be back with family, daunted by what is in front of me to make the trip worthwhile and get value, not only for the Churchill Trust who sponsored the study tour, but also for myself to try and make the time to follow up.

My report is now nearing 50 pages with many photos included, I have started emailing those I met and got business cards from, but that pile is tall and each has to be individual, at least that is my view. I could just draft a hello, good to have met you and thanks, but each had a different aim, intent or focus and if I do not recognise that and seek to gain the most value from each meeting, then I have possibly failed the chance to make the most from the trip.

Even now there are things I wish I could have done better, or arranged better, but the two things the Churchill people stress when you first discuss such a trip, is that you must leave time for the things that pop up unannounced and that you should not then miss and that you should also take some time for yourself to enjoy it, you do not have to work 24 hours a day. That will only burn you out and possibly leave you to miss, or not get the best, from something.

As I have said, I was aware of the Churchill Fellowships, having had people suggest it to me a few times over the last ten years. One of those had been a Churchill Fellow and suggested it could help with my road safety efforts, even then. Once I started down the path of the TIV though, I felt I had a commitment to those who had supported me as sponsors and that it would not be fair to then head off on a major trip. With this TIV prime mover now 7 years old and the trailers coming up ten and starting work on the next one, which I will commit to for five years, the timing seemed right.

I did not honestly expect to be successful and some I have spoken to say it is somewhat unusual to be successful in your first application, but there are probably not many truck drivers who have applied and that point of difference may have helped. About 1200 people a year apply with around 100 fellowships awarded. There are some with a specific focus, music, the arts, health or children for example and of course, there was one for road safety.

The application process is fairly rigorous with a written application, then two personal interviews and I was able to do the first by phone, with I think, 5 peers asking questions, though was told I could be at a disadvantage to others who turned up, but it was a lot to go from Dubbo to Sydney for a 15 minute interview with the costs involved, let alone the time off work. This one was about your knowledge and depth of immersion into your field of endeavour, but the second one was come to Sydney or fall out of the process and was more about your passion and had a table full of ten or more asking you questions about what you wanted to do, why, where you wanted to go and why.

Then you either progressed to the state finals or were passed over and then each state submitted their finalists and from that pool, the 106 chosen in 2016 were awarded Churchill Fellowships. With permission and in consultation with the Churchill Trust, I deferred for a year, both to give me more time and to co-ordinate the timing and what to do with the gap, between the Convoy in the Park in England and the Great American Truckshow in Dallas, my planned start and finish points.

Setting up things so far out and so far away when you have never done it before, can be a challenge, yes there are those who can help, but with trucks and road safety, to my knowledge it is something not very regularly put together and certainly, not in the eyes of the public. Churchill Fellowships are highly regarded in many fields and those who have gone before me and who will certainly follow, have achieved exceptional things, from defining education for children at a disadvantage, to improving the health of widespread and or specific groups, to outcomes in the arts and music unlikely without the extension that such a fellowship can provide.

I have said it already I know, but thanks to all from the Churchill Trust, the judges and to all others who applied and or have since completed their fellowships. If you have a passion and a knowledge of a subject and believe you can not only learn and extend that knowledge or value to all Australians, then please look at the Churchill Fellowships and consider applying. Or if you know someone that could benefit from such, suggest looking at it, to them.

I am off back to work now. Back in the truck I have spent the last 7 years of my life driving, primping, cleaning, showing at events and taking passengers in. I do not only drive, I load and unload my cargoes as well and whilst I might average 50 hours driving each week, there is the other time involved as well, let alone the shows and events. I normally leave home Sunday, as I will soon and will most likely return next Saturday, so my working week is 5 or 6 full days living and working in the truck.

IMG_2705You may well go to work and or work more hours and could well spend time driving to and from work, but how many of you live in and at, your work and then what is your quality of life there? Good facilities, kitchens and toilets and showers available, good food and company? I ask this not for you to feel anything for me, but to ask you to consider the lifestyle and the things an intestate truckie gives up, so you can have your food, clothes, fuel and your car. At Convoy in the Park, they had shirts that read “WITHOUT TRUCKS YOU WOULD BE COLD, NAKED AND HUNGRY” and I would simply ask that you consider this, till next we meet. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

26th August 2018. Heading Home.

Well today is the last day of my Churchill Fellowship trip. I am packing, or trying to jam stuff in my bags, ready to catch a Qantas flight home tonight. It has been an amazing experience, I have met many people with only two out of the whole trip, not welcoming, but they could have simply had a bad day. I have spoken with hundreds of drivers through to media and industry and government bodies and have a damn site more to do when I get home and start to follow up on those meetings and contacts.

I aim to immediately put in a submission to the FMCSA request for comment on their hours of service and will invite the current head to come to Australia and see how we do it. You have to aim high! I have dozens of books and magazines to read and go through for information, for further contacts and to simply get even more views. I travelled just over 6000 miles (9600 kilometres) across America and into Canada and whilst one fellow did ask, why aren’t you flying, I said being on the road is what I do and what better way to feel and understand it, as I preach to our authorities when I ask them to do a trip with me. I could possibly have used the driving time to keep my report up to date, as I am a week behind in it, though have my diary up to date, but still feel, driving best suited the aim and intent of the trip.

I would have loved to have done it in a truck, but that was a big ask for 5 weeks on the road and whilst I have been invited back by some for the future, the issue of a truck license, unless you move here to work, is still a major hurdle. Still, one thing at a time.
I spent an hour on the Road Dog Trucking channel on the satellite network coming into Dallas, explaining the trip and taking calls, including a Kiwi who wanted to tell me they will win the football again. At GATS, I did an interview with the lovely Marcia who does a midnight radio show and she was so friendly and effusive at the end, hugging me and saying she loved my passion and then also had an Aussie trucker, who now lives in Montana on a ranch and does a daytime driving job, invite me to stay and do a days run with him over the mountains if I ever get back here.

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The number of companies looking for drivers here is remarkable and there were dozens with trucks on show and or recruiting, but I had a number of drivers ask what I was doing. “Are you recruiting for drivers in Australia” or, “How can I come there and drive them roadtrains, I just want to have a go at that”. The truck show and shine had some beautiful trucks, there was an award for the Rookie Driver of the year and a final for the Talent search on stage, so many thing to see and do as part of the show.

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Tony Justice who is still a fulltime driver but also a well know musician here, did a concert on the Friday night that I attended and I arranged an interviewed with him on Saturday, along with a lady from the St Christopher Truckers Relief Fund group and a fellow from Trucker Buddy, a school penpal group that not only promotes the trucking industry and road safety, but in a way that young kids and teachers can use to improve their learning and for something to do in my spare time, I plan to get something going here in partnership with them, as they have the infrastructure and the people and knowledge to help me do it right.

 

Thank you to the Great American Truckshow and the organisers for their help in allowing me to attend and for the small stand I had to show my banners and to all I met with and or spoke to there.

Thank you to the Churchill Fellowship and its board and judges for the chance to do this trip, to my employer Rod Pilon Transport for the time and their support over 11 years now, to those who helped with contacts and suggestions and to all I have met on this wonderful adventure. I am looking forward to a few nights good sleep when I get home, as I did a few long nights (or long days and short nights) towards the end and the best part of the trip, was no bloody logbook or alarm clock.

My complete report will likely be 30 plus pages, my photo count is over 2000, video of many hours and stories and lovely people I will remember for years to come. I have just rang Bruce Outridge from Toronto thanking him for his hospitality, done an interview with Stan from Trucker Radio, earlier did a catch up with Luke on the “Nighshift” radio show back home in Australia and am now gearing up and looking forward to many hugs and kisses with my children and grandchildren, when I get home.

They have been very supportive of all my efforts in trucks and road safety and whilst it is the worst part of this job, the time we spend away from them, doing what I do, shows, events and the time to put in submissions and trips such as this, few outside our industry recognise that cost and impact on a truckies family and I fear few others care, but that is the way of the world. I love my family dearly and one day hope to make up to them the time I have put into this hobby or passion, or both.

I love what I do, I love my family and my job, but I still hope to get the next TRUCKRIGHT Vehicle up and running and will commit to it for the next 5 years and that will be my next push on returning. There is nothing like the TIV anywhere I have been and I wish I could have brought it with me to show off what we do and how we do it.

I did visit the Iowa 80 truckstop, the biggest in the world and their museum and there is a truck there, that went over the Europe and did a tour some years ago and was recently donated to the museum when the owner retired. Anyone with suggestions and or offers to help with the next TIV will be warmly welcomed.

So now to sort the luggage issue, a shower and to the airport. Thanks again to all who have helped in any way and to my family, I love and have missed you all dearly and can’t wait to be home. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

23rd August 2018 Nearing the end of my Churchill Fellowship Trip.

Goodaye all, I did get to visit the American Trucking Association National Truck Driving and Step Van Championships in Columbus for a few hours, attended the breakfast and met with the head of the FMCSA and others, quickly handing out a few business cards, then watched some of the drivers going through the tests, but they had already done their knowledge, pre-trip and media tests.

With up to a dozen trucks and trailers idling round in a hall, grandstands and displays etc, you can imagine how big the hall is. I then left for my 12 hour drive to Eau Claire in Wisconsin for the truck show and that went well, but after only my second real rain of the trip and it was bad enough to nearly keep me awake in the car, I did come upon my first crash, a Mack semi and car off the road together, but only saw the after effects on traffic etc. There was some flooding according to the news not far away during the night and I arrived Friday in time to set up for the show opening at 3PM.

A small convoy arrived here, having raised funds for a local child and this is what started this show off years ago, much like another surprise birthday truckshow just further south for Bubba, that has got plenty of media attention here. The monster trucks drew a good crowd and the trucks and vendors had a good start to the show. The Army tank carrier, battery powered little jet of the Air Force that travelled around and some magnificent show trucks were highlights.

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I spoke with many drivers and filmed interviews with some, took more photos and asked my trip question. Many answer cell (Mobile to us) phones and or, distraction, saying the number of people they see on phones is growing and it seems it may be an epidemic that is getting away from us all. I was given a small marque to put my stands up in, but spent most of my time roaming and talking to drivers.

The views do vary, but the themes remain, car drivers the biggest problem, some concerned with a small percentage of truck drivers as well, lack of rest areas and even here in this smaller town, there were about 8 companies with stands wanting drivers and some others for training them. Wisconsin Kenworth had a stand and trucks and I gave them a couple of the Aussie Kenworth brochures I had left over and they were so impressed, they were to give me some goodies, but I missed them closing up Sunday morning.

Overall a good turn out, the public seemed happy with the trucks and entertainment and the truckies I spoke with, were as always so far on the trip, welcoming and friendly and keen to chat. Thanks to all I spoke with or interviewed and to the organisers for the stand, invite and hospitality.

I did get to do a chat with Luke in Australia on the Nightshift show and am to ring him from GATS as well. I also had some calls from Aussie radio stations during the week re the dangerous nature of our industry and all were surprised to find me driving in a car and on a somewhat different highway from normal. This led to chats about the Churchill Fellowship trip an then the Monash report.

I did the return trip and did a tour of the Cummins Centre in Columbus, but was unable to do the extra bit and their museum was also closed for renovations as well, but it was interesting and valuable and I did learn and play with something, that may be very helpful for the future, we shall see.

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I travelled on to the Iowa 80 Truckstop, the biggest in the world with over 900 truck parking spaces, an enormous shop and food complex and a museum with some magnificent old trucks. A bit of shopping, drooling over some bits I can’t afford or to carry home anyway, then on to Joplin and eventually to Dallas. Coming in to Dallas I got onto to TRUCK Dog radio program on the Sirius Satellite network and explained my trip and was invited to stay and chat and take calls for an hour.

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I have just returned to the motel in Dallas after my first day at the Great American Truck show. I am told the Dallas convention centre is one of the largest, and I have still not seen all of it. I hope to attend the concert tomorrow night and listen in on the proposed possible rule changes for their Hours of Service session to be held here tomorrow.

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They are asking for some flexibility in their hours since the introduction of mandatory Electronic Logging Devices in December last year and the serious start to policing of them since April. This has caused a number of things to change, mostly for the worse. Drivers pushing to find somewhere to legally park for 10 hours for their required break, some drivers leaving and I heard one add on the radio program here, offering a $30,000 sign on bonus for team (two-up) drivers.

Another add said they were at the critical level needing drivers and I am sure I could have had ten job offers if I was staying. A few Aussies dropped in to say hello and many ask, where are you from with that accent and love to hear and ask about Australia. Off to bed now and plan to file another blog before leaving on Sunday. Cheers and Safe Travelling to all, Rod Hannifey.

16th August Columbus Ohio.

Goodaye all. On Saturday I visited Niagara Falls, virtually going past from Toronto on my way to Chillicothe anyway and Bruce and Carmen said being so close, if I didn’t go I would be a goose. The falls are magnificent on first appraisal and while I took photos and video, they do not capture it to its best. On arrival I went looking around, having found there would be a band and fireworks that night and I still had a day now to get to Kenworth for Monday, as most of the American Trucking Association staff were on their way to the National Truck Driving Championships in Columbus, so I was told it would be a waste going to Washington to see them and so had stayed another day in Toronto for the truckshow there.

I went and did a little shopping for the family, walking maybe 7 or 8 kilometres during the day and night, but it is very commercial there and quite a surprise, I took photos and videos during the day and night and headed off after the fireworks. Based on the vehicles and people, I envisaged a long slow trek out as I thought and the parking attendant agreed, there was only one way in and out. So I had planned to sit in the car and catch up on my report.

However it looked like a good start out of the parking area and the Police on point duty sent me the other way and with a stop and a target in the GPS to guide me out the back way, I was on the highway in less than 10 minutes. Now on the way into Canada, I had come upon the Illinois Tollroad with no signs or warnings for the tolls. My GPS had a setting for avoiding tolls, yet had given no warning of the issue there, but this time decided to save me $10 in tolls and cost me two hours and more fuel in avoiding a few on the main highway south.

I ended up on a much smaller road for hours and in the scheme of things, it was probably a good chance to see the lesser roads and I ended up in the early hours of the morning in a small and run down truckstop where I asked and was told I could sleep out the back.

Next morning after a sleep in and some fuel, I was on the road and reached Chillicothe that evening. I sussed out the plant and went and found a motel for a shower and bed. My tour started the next morning at 9AM and went till lunch, with one of the four Assistant Plant Managers as my guide, we did an introduction and tour and he then bought me lunch in the cafeteria where I sat in with some of his friends and explained again, what I was doing there.

The plant is at capacity and working on increasing that over the next couple of years. There are 2300 employees with 1300 involved in the assembly of trucks, 53 component suppliers within a 250 Mile range of the plant and at the end of my tour I had asked JD, my guide, for what he sees as the safety aims for Kenworth. He said driver assistance was increasing to be able to be more aware of our surrounds and those travelling within those surrounds and driver comfort, to reduce fatigue and again, keep us with more ability and time to watch and drive, rather than just drive.

There are Kenworths everywhere and I took photos, visited the predelivery down the road and then the dealership over the road as well, after the tour. The manager there said he was possibly not the best to ask, but that he was seeing an increase in technology fitments, but a pushback from some drivers.

My tour with Cummins has been deferred till next week and whilst I have met with one of the ATA staff here in Columbus and been invited to the Breakfast of Champions for the National Truck Driving Championships, I will have to leave by noon to meet my commitment for a truck show 12 hours away. So I have decided to sit here and catch up with my report which is now into 16 pages, do a blog or two, send in my column for Owner Driver and I thought, catch up on some sleep.

But I have just spent the last hour on the phone with an Australian truckie who has raised some more hairy issues for some of the things that we deal with on the rod and their legality. I have to be up early and am up to date with my diary, nearly up to date with my report, showered and mostly packed and am off to bed at 10.30 PM Columbus time on the 15th. It was my youngest daughters and second grandsons’ birthdays yesterday and it is my second sons’ birthday at home in Australia on the 16th and as with my job all too often, I am a long way away, but I love my children dearly and miss them all. Safe Travelling to all, Rod Hannifey.