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

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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.

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5th December 2021 Slipping a trip in the middle in the new TIV K200.

Goodaye all, in the middle of a normal, read normal to interstate drivers week, I picked up the new truck from Wagga Wagga and delivered it to Brisbane. They had struggled to get someone to deliver it when most of their part in the next TIV (though a bit more to be done in Dubbo now before final delivery) was done and being the eternal optimist, I thought I could simply fit it in the middle of a normal week.

Tuesday, our change over was due out early, never normally happens, I was still on my way back to Dubbo, having been to Dalby, Brisbane and back to Daly then Mungindi and so had to ask the driver to wait, Thanks Peter, then had to arrange safe pick up of the new one, got a shower and a kip and early Wednesday morning, off to Brissie. Through Dubbo for fuel and thought I would go through Mendooran as had come down from Goondi and not heard it was now closed.

In the rain, the truck faltered but then took off again, but coming into Coona, it derated. Still early, so made some calls, added some ad-blue (but then wasn’t the problem anyway and bottles just had long enough funnel) told maybe throttle sensor but being special, none anywhere, can you get it up to cruise and try that? Current truck no cruise and was in 50 zone, so had not had the chance to try.

Took off and yes, works on cruise but towns will be interesting, then it must have dried out (and now having to go via Tamworth due to Newell closed) came good till the fourth lot of rain and another lot of flashing lights and buzzers and no accelerator, but cruise OK. Now running behind plan and up on hours, divert to Brown and Hurley for a booking to check it in the morning. Jump in another changeover to go back to Dubbo, but he hadn’t known till the last minute as thought with road closed etc may get stuck in Brissie! I was starting to think that too and my week and plan would have had major ramifications for a lot of things and reasons.

But another long night in the passenger seat, home to Dubbo, get my truck serviced!!!! Before I left and then into Melbourne with a few little things to just nearly have me tearing (the last) of my hair out, but Friday went OK and out that afternoon and home yesterday.

So it does exist, it did sort of breakdown (and I have told all who want to take the mickey out of me, now it has broken down, but I still got it there, it will not break down till after I get out of it in 5 years, STOP LAUGHING ALL OF YOU) it had the bullbar test fitted, had some checks done for the Icepack and is booked in for the scales etc tomorrow. I will be back up there Tuesday and might get to check in, but doubt it as have a late morning timeslot south of Brissie.

One mate I called up said it looked good and that was even without the bullbar and maybe without it all the ACB wiring being open at the front, was where the problem with the rain came from, but will check up on that Monday. So a few more steps, but again, I am in the debt of many who have contributed, but hell, am I looking forward to having it on the road! Hell yes!

Oh and on the way up in the new one, I had committed to a meeting with Transport for NSW about truck rest areas. I think there were nearly 50 in the phone hook up and I will state two things here. I have been critical of all states, including NSW for the lack of facilities, lack of consultation and completely ignoring our needs in being safe and having suitable and sufficient truck rest areas. I hope this meeting is the start of a major change within Transport for NSW to consult, listen and act. Yes it all costs money and we all know there will not be 20 new rest areas built tomorrow, but back to being that optimist, I am looking forward to improvements.

I did suggest they give me a grader and I could fix the problems on the Pacific in a couple of days, but they declined that offer. I thank Paul Pulver from LBRCA from also taking part, giving his views and support for many of my comments. Yes it is a small consult from the trucking point of view, but again, I am taking it as a serious start and one of the major things we pushed was more, wider and serious industry consultation, in planning, before during and within construction and this was not only agreed to, but said would be a major change. Nothing happens overnight, it has taken a long time and there is no reason we could not have had more industry participation in this meeting, but too many views at once can see things bogged down and then the process simply takes longer to get started. I look forward to much change and will keep pushing.

So a day off, to catch up with some sleep, do a column and all this stuff, more for the new truck and say hello to my children. Another normal week!!!!!!!!!!!!! Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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28th November 2021 Two funny things.

Goodaye all, a fairly big week, linehaul and doing change overs don’t go so well together, but got it done legal and luckily, no real dramas. The closure of Edgar St might have caught me out and that one error, could have really spoiled the day, but luckily went the back way and whilst possibly slower than using the ringroad, turned out OK.

Tried to go to sleep, but got a call about another delay with the new truck and that set my mind to overthinking and overplanning and then I could not sleep, so read, had a light tea and got half way home and then went to bed and slept well.

Now home for a quick visit, do audiobooks, make lists, overthink and plan some more and try to make things happen over which I have little control and many others involved that make it like trying to juggle while being juggled, but I have a plan and back up, but still have to co-ordinate many others and hope it works.

Two funny things happened after last weeks post, in which I may have got a bit maudlin, but espoused the view you must keep trying. Got to have breakfast and discuss next years NRFA AGM and that looks good and on the path to a good plan. But someone thinks I do this to get something for me and then I had a note on a toilet door offering my number for a good time. Thanks to the driver who thought it a step too far and had it removed. At least it did mention National Road Freighters, so I think it came from a radio listener. If you have the balls to own up, happy to hear from you what your grievances are!

But having now tried to fit in 8 hours stuff into 5, have to run. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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21st November 2021 Happy Birthday daughter Kelly for during the week and take care Chris.

Goodaye all, a quick visit home for my daughters birthday, most of the family around, a few drinks and then find a bed. You often wonder how it all worked when we had 7 all at home? Now when they all visit, the bunks are all gone and with partners and kids, the house is not big enough. But they are all unique individuals and the best that has come from my life.

I have actually seen the new TIV through the fence, it has made it to Wagga for some work, but still has to get to Brisbane for the remainder, so a few weeks yet. Did some changeovers during the week, hard to transition into from normal linehaul, and worse when you have to try and fit in drops and reloading, but with some luck and help got it all done, so stopped and had a good sleep on the way home Friday night.

Still managed an online meeting with the NTC and two others from NRFA, we will submit some suggestions for hours and have specifically sought to be involved in the review that will occur for penalties etc with the new HVNL when it comes.

Had another hook up with Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds, involved with the Gold Standard Rest are project with another NRFA member and have to send a position to the NRFA board for approval and then to them, (next job).

Also a hook up with Freight NSW who are working on some rest areas in NSW and that is welcome news for the future. I even ran out of green reflectors during the week, so will have to restock. So having come back to work to smooth my way back in, have now had I think, four or five days home in nearly 6 weeks. Lucky I am taking it easy!!!!!!!!

I even got to listen to the ABC evenings one night who did an interview with Health in Gear CEO Darren Black and even replayed it on Saturday, discussing drivers and surviving on the road at the moment. Asking for some empathy and recognition of the task we have done, recognising we are all flat out and will likely be till well after Christmas.

I must say it has been a bit of a lonely return. One of my mates of many years has been unwell and off the road. We used to speak each week when he was on the road, the usual solving of all our own and the industries and worlds problems, not that we fixed anything, but he was always a good sounding board and often kicked me along when I was getting frustrated with one thing or another. Our longest phone chat was well over 3 hours and I would like to think we helped one another survive on the road. I wish him all the best, take care Chris.

This has been my new home for the last 6 weeks. It is a 2003 I think from the fuel tanks, K104, one of two Rod Pilon bought new at the time. Next year with be 50 years of RPT and I cannot thank Rod and all there enough for their support. I used to say to those who asked, there is stuff on this truck, (the last TIV) that Rod does not even know about, simply because I was given a fairly free hand to add things from my sponsors. The other comment I often made when asked about the trailer curtains (and some even said” Who stitched you up with those, you won’t be able to hide anywhere with them?”) was, “I designed them and how many company owners would let a driver do that?”

So having seen the new truck, I want to thank all who have hassled me as well as those who have thanked me, more the later than the former. But to those who whinge, much more behind my back than to my face I am told by others, I say, instead of whinging about what I do, do something to make a difference yourself. Some have whinged, why do I write for Owner Driver, or speak on the radio, or have such a nice truck? Alll of these have come from making an effort and there are only a small percentage of those I speak with who have any remote idea, how much time behind the scenes goes into all this stuff.

I wish in ten minutes a week I could do all this, but it takes hours each day and perhaps even hundreds of hours a month to keep it all going. I offer this not to show about me, but to show none of it pays me anywhere near the time and effort my family have given up and lost. There are times when you sit and think, is it worth it? The cost is not just money and effort, it is and becomes your life. The cost to your family is inestimable and can never be recovered or repaid and as with others I thank, they deserve even more thanks for the support given and the completely over the top allowances made for what I do, above driving full time. Thank you to my family. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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14th November 2021 A week-end in Rocky.

Goodaye all, another week-end in Central Queensland, now in Rocky till I can load Monday. There has been some serious rain up here (and even at home so I hear) and roads were closed, but I seem to have followed much of it and can see where it has been, but not been delayed or directly affected as yet.

Earlier in the week on my way to Sydney to unload, I pulled into Willow Tree to find a driver who has recently joined NRFA, then after loading and on my way out stopped at Quirindi for fuel and ended up speaking with another driver who was a Nightshift listener and whilst still incognito in my EH Holden, Mission Brown RPT K104, can find drivers passionate about the job.

The new one has been completed in Melbourne, but like all things, there is now a delay to get it to Wagga and then Brisbane. I am chomping at the bit to get in it and get it working.

Funny watching the news, they are saying water restrictions in SE Qld in the new year, but I asked a driver where all the water was coming from out through Gunnedah and the dam was overfull and had to have water released. If only we could control the weather? I have cleaned out all the toolboxes, one each stop, rang some of my children, the rest tonight, so a quick cab clean, visit the local supermarket and maybe Bunnings for a look, then into a good book.

I rang and left a message for my first employer, from when I was 15 as he lives up this way, as does my brother in-law and also a couple of NRFA colleagues and Tony rang me back about 5.30AM to see what I was doing. We had spoken on the phone when his son saw me on the road and had got my contact number from Owner Driver, but had not seen one another for perhaps, 40 years.

He picked me up and we went and had breakfast and then went for a drive. When I was 15, I left school due to my Mum leaving home, lots to say, but a long time ago, and when I saw this big flash frig van just down the road from home with a yellow boomerang on the side, I had to go and say hello. That led me to turning up one Monday morning after leaving school, and asking, “Do you need anyone to help?” I was told no, but I stayed for the week and on Friday Tony gave me $25 and said I had a job.

I have said before I drove my first roadtrain at 16, but also my first semi, a quad box Mack before that. Tony was running to Mt Isa, sold out to Frigmobile when I was 16, but did arrange a job there for me and I started doing the Mt Isa orders, then went onto loading trucks, driving forklifts in the freezer rooms and when I turned 17, driving rigids and having to stick my “P” plates on with tape, each time I went out. In the end I was doing country runs, but then we had a dispute over a truck and I went to work for Inghams Chickens doing mainly KFC stores and put on a couple of kilo eating all that good chicken and chips we were often offered each day.

From there it was to Luya Julius, will cover life there another day, they were bought out by Finemores and they were then bought out by Toll. I left after 29 years continuous service, when I could not find anyone there who would support my road safety ideas. I wanted a fair bit, obviously more than most drivers ask for and in my second meeting with the hierarchy in Sydney, was told by upper Toll management, “We can’t afford that”, so I left.

In someways a ballsy (read stupid, overconfident etc if you wish) move and I did have to eat humble pie and go back for a short time, but from my point of view (having had both Finemores and Toll on national TV, having won the ATA Driver of the Year just as Toll had taken over) was not treated fairly, but that may have simply been personality issues with my boss of the time? I applied to over 30 companies, who most often did not even reply or told me, they would love to have me as a driver, but could not support my road safety efforts or aims.

And so having detailed in each job application my aim to be a driver like all others for 10 months of the year, but that I wanted them to provide a truck to promote the road transport industry and road safety, I wanted them to allow me to attend events with their truck, but offered my holidays as well to cover some of that time. Surprisingly, none jumped at my offer? I needed someone who had some skin in the game, had to be small enough to care, have some passion and respect for the industry that had hopefully looked after them and their family, but big enough that one truck going to events etc would not be too harmful.

The rest as they say is history and one day, I will write a book and it will have lots of pictures of the TIV in its’ many guises. So back to the roadhouse and last time I was up here went and had tea with my brother in-law and his family (another tanker driver now) and did contact TMR about green reflectors and the lack of rubbish bins opposite the then Caltex and now Ampol. The stands are still there for the bins, but no bins and I did get a reply saying the area was to be done up and it would be addressed then. Of course, there are those who will walk across the road and deposit any rubbish in the bins there and those who won’t. Surely it would be better to have had the bins there for the last 6 months, but we are only truck drivers, what would we know? But guess who will get another call after I load Monday? Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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7th November 2021 Truckstops, roads and rest areas.

Goodaye all, finally made it home yesterday, two weeks living in the truck nothing to those who do Perth etc or as in the USA, go away for months at a time, but they either have a house for a sleeper, or far better truckstops and facilities than we mostly do! Now a couple of blokes had a go at me for stopping in the roadhouse parking area. Seems I can’t win. Yes I had to have a 24 hour break, so where can you do your washing, get food and have a toilet and shower available. Many want such things when on a break, why can’t I?

Whilst I was there on a Saturday/Sunday, I never saw trucks have to leave because there was nowhere to park, but it was chockers when I went back Tuesday night to fuel, on my way out again. It has been an interesting week, lousy roads up that way, both the highways and into mine sites, some good rest areas, some useless and some big spaces between either.

Had to do a changeover at Moree Thursday night, been in Qld for nearly ten days and two hours into NSW and back, only stepped foot in the parking bay and spoke with one driver, but had to wait at the border for my test result to get back into Qld. Seems Victoria do not require any tests now, but a different pass, so we will see what Qld end up doing. Again, why seven sets of rules?

One thing I have noticed is a proliferation of STOPPING Bays, yet most of them are useless and of course, the authorities will say, we have provided them for you, so why whinge. It is like parking bays, it is all well and good to build something so they can say they have, it is another to actually get what you need and the third part is value for money. No matter what it has cost, whose idea, plan or scheme it is, if it does not provide for those it is intended to serve, then it is at the least a waste of money and at the worst, a completely missed opportunity.

Many months ago during a phone call to one of the serious government agencies who look into roads and their uses, I raised this issue. Do we have national guideline s for Stopping Bays, is it legal to sleep in them, who designs them and what are they actually intended to do and or provide? I was told there would have to be a study, but why? Why can’t someone simply see what is currently being done and propose a national set of standards, design principles and guidelines? Who are they for, what do they intend to provide and then why are there ten in a row (one place I saw, the next was within sight of the last, what a ridiculous waste of money) then nothing for hundreds of kilometres!

This is why we need a national rest area strategy. Why then will none of the other industry associations support this as part of the NRFA 6 point plan? Natroad have come out saying there should be money for rest areas, absolutely, but where, what style etc? Will any of the Natroad board ever sleep in one, I doubt it, so how will they use this money if it ever gets allocated. Will we again see stuff done with good intent and lousy delivery? I am very frustrated with roads and rest areas, the money spent badly, the money not spent at all and yet we are not only expected to manage our fatigue and comply, we are severely punished if we don’t. How can you win? When you have the answer, let me know. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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31st October 2021 A week-end in Mackay.

Goodaye all, here I am in Mackay, unloading tomorrow morning. The new (2 years old) BP truckstop still has “TRUCKERS” signs, so back to them to ask again ”WHY”, can’t you at least use our own terminology. We are “TRUCKIES”. Now of course we all would like more room to park and there are only 5 marked b-double spaces here, one single if you park on the line, a couple for coaches and 4 to 6 for caravans depending on their size and how they park.

So over $1000 worth of fuel in on arrival, I slept here amongst the Icepacks with my Viesea on for a bit and then off so it would not flatten the battery, a reasonable nights sleep I suppose. At one stage there were 11 trucks parked up, of course in the coach and van bays as well, no coach turned up and only one van to park that I have seen.

Now I have had discussions with BP and others over the years and we would all love more parking, for trucks everywhere. I do fear we are going backwards in some ways, but we must keep trying to be heard, but be reasonable as well. But with such sites, on a major highway, how can any council approve a major truck facility with 5 or 6 parking spaces. They want to sell meals and the facilities, showers, lounge, laundry and all are welcome and a part of such a complex, but you can’t do any of that in five minutes and the trucks keep rolling through.

The kitchen did close late in the evening, though there was hot food still available and the site is 24 hours. Yes they have to pay for the land, the upkeep etc, but so many sites from Melbourne to Brisbane where a commercial fuel site has been built and they must comply with all the council requirements, how many car park spaces, how many toilets etc, but why do they not require more truck spaces. We buy the fuel and food, we even deliver it all as well, yet they allow 5 parking spaces on a highway with hundreds of trucks a day, why?

I dawdled up yesterday, stopping at a few green reflector bays and must say the bays on the Bruce from Rocky north and from Banana up (though the road house was closed, don’t know what is happening there?) seem to be far better signed and more frequent. There are some big legs from Taroom north with little shoulders, few stopping spots, but some good stockpile sites that we could easily and safely use. The states seem keen to keep us out of them in the most, a few have been marked previously, but the way they are set out, have good shade and room and are often only used for three months every few years, still leads me to ask why we can’t use them more?

This does lead to one issue, the rubbish along the side of the road. While walking up and down the road to confirm line of site and suitability as a green reflector bay etc!!, it is impossible to ignore the rubbish. Do you all keep your rubbish in your truck till you stop or use a bin? I have a small rubbish bin and empty it when I fuel or stop overnight using the bins provided. What do you do? Lazy motorists that simply eat or drink and then throw out the rubbish, are destroying our roadsides with rubbish and then of course, when it rains it is carried off or the mowers come along and chop it up. I must say, I will be also contacting road authorities re the old guideposts simply thrown or left on the road side. Are you doing your bit, or do you throw out rubbish. You may well think it not important, but get out and have a look or walk along the road and you must agree, it is not hard to keep it and dispose of it in a better way for all.

Well time to finish this and go and pull the toolbox apart and have a clean out. I need a milk crate or container for straps etc, will see what I can find when I get it all out, then maybe lunch, audiobook reviews and chase up the next TIV bit s and pieces. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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24th October 2021 Roads and Associations again.

Goodaye all, nearly the same week as last, Dubbo, Melbourne, Dubbo, Newcastle, Emerald, Rockhampton and back to Dubbo, just on 5000k for the week. I rang TMR and reported a culvert that felt like a 6 inch drop, one bridge with both abutments dropped both north of Springsure and rang RMS to ask about lost truck bays in the Singleton to Belford road improvement. We are losing the formal one at the Golden Highway intersection, which was badly designed and not much use and then the informal bit before the camera, which will now be the new road.

The lady who rang me back from RMS told me the ones on the Hunter Bypass where built with these losses in mind and I explained there are still not enough bays and the westbound one had all the trees blown down and left to die after the money had been spent to buy them. She said she would put my views forward and I thanked her.

Now getting roads fixed is a big job and I don’t travel them all, where some of you travel the same roads every night, so you know where the problem bits are, but have you ever reported any of them? I do not expect any driver to ring every time they see a bump, that would be a waste of everyone’s time, but if within NRFA we could have three or four blokes for each highway and they kept in touch and each week reported the worst bump or issue for that road, then the authorities might act. I have had hundreds of bumps, dips and road failures repaired and or at least, improved and the authorities do not travel every road every day, nor do they ever do it in loaded trucks, so they simply may not even know of the issue.

I have asked for drivers to join an association, I don’t even mind which one you join, but with so many drivers and so few in associations, all struggle to get a voice and to have that voice heard. But with enough members, that might change. All also struggle with having a few do all the work, but if we had small groups with one focus, for example a particular highway and they could focus on that but still have the support of an association, then perhaps we could achieve more, have safer roads for all and not expect the few or just me, to fix every bump and pothole in Australia.

So if you want your highway fixed, join the NRFA now, become part of the group for your highway and all you will have to do is work with two or three others once or twice a week, keep a record of what you agree to be the biggest problem and how and when you report it, either separately which would be preferable, the more complaints the more likely they are too act, the more we might get done.

Now I should not have to tell you, if you ring and abuse or are rude to the person taking the complaint (and yes we are all frustrated they don’t build, maintain and fix them all better, this is why we are asking for a NATIONAL HIGHWAY STANDARD) then the time and effort will be wasted, they will think all truckies are idiots and nothing will change. But if you ring and explain you travel this road each night and you believe this to be a road safety hazard and are reporting it to make the roads safer, then who knows, we might get much more done. Be genuine, don’t ring about a divet the size of your thumb, report serious flaws and failures.

There is a “duty of care” for all road authorities, if something is reported and they fail to act, they can be held liable. Yes, they have an out if they don’t know, “How can we know of every bump of failure” will be what they say and fair enough, some of them have very large networks to cover and can’t cover every kilometre each month, let alone each week, hence also the need to keep a record.

Yes you can do this on your own, but how many of you do now, if more did, then we may not need to organise this plan, but if you and a few others can agree on the worst bit that week and all report it, then the authorities will have to act. That is why we must keep some sort of record. Now Vicroads will give you a reference number and so it can’t be simply “lost” or forgotten, I have spoken to them and had them go back months to when it was last reported and then can say, “Why has this not been actioned?” It is our lives and our safety and if you want to do it alone, please do, but I would like to try this way and see what we can do, so come on, join the NRFA.

But if you want to join the QTA, VTA, SARTA Natroad or any of the others because you think they will do more for you, please do and then ask them to support our NRFA 6 point plan. If you haven’t seen it yet, then check our Facebook or web page and let us know what you think? Do you agree with the points, will you help us achieve them? Who else will do it if we don’t and we can’t do it alone, let alone with only a few hundred members?

And now the video. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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17th October 2021. Back on the road week 2.

Goodaye all, it has been a busy week and this will be short as I am now trying to catch up and get ready to hit the road again. Living in a truck is not just taking your logbook and off you go. You need clothes and food and tools and every time, particularly when you only plan to be in it for a short time, say a few weeks, you get what you think is all you need, there is always something else you “might need”. Then you can’t do it all in one hit unless you make a list and some jobs need more stuff again.

But that is life on the road. I even had to supply a curtain as the last driver either removed them or didn’t need them as it was used locally in Sydney for a while. But if you have to sleep in it, you can’t even get changed, let alone sleep in the lights during the day, or depending where you sleep, the lights from other vehicles. Just another issue to deal with.

I left without audiobooks to keep me occupied, then found my library membership had expired and had to ring and sort that and now find the stereo the truck in the day, is not the best for audiobooks, Ok for music but I prefer windows open rather than aircon, so more to sort to be happy and comfortable in my new interim home.

I have not taken my frig, simply another heavy thing to fit and deal with, so have been living on stuff that does not need refrigeration and it is not as easy. For the first time I have tried Beef Jerky, a friend gave me some and where I used to eat lollies and chocolate, not all day of course, but when you need that pick me up, I have tried the Nile River Mild Chilly and Heated Garlic and they do lift your taste buds and your spirit. My old favourite anzac biscuits and Coles Raisin and Oat cookies have kept me fed, but I look forward to simply having more options when you have a frig.

Thanks to those who have made the effort to join an association and I did get a reply from a couple of people in associations and have asked them to push our 6 point plan. There will be a 7th point dealing with loading delays etc and specifically DCs, but that will follow on from our survey. We need some input to have some data to show an issue and will then formulate a plan to try and address it. Yes it is yet another of the twenty year problems and if you can fix it tomorrow, we will all be thankful, but if you can’t then make the effort to help us try. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.  

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10th October 2021 Back on the road again and a request.

Goodaye all, back on the road again. Whilst off, I became enamoured of the “Assassins Apprentice” series of books by Robin Hobb. I had read all the “Rangers Apprentice” and “Brotherband” series by Australian author John Flanagan and recommend them for kids and adults. So into book 5 “The Golden Fool” and took it and was barely able to keep up with my diary and so did not even get to read a word. So much for a gentle return.

Now if I was to detail the issues, all of you who drive trucks would say, just a usual week, but others may not be aware of the life we lead, so they can have food, fuel and clothes etc. I was obviously dreaming when I had hoped to have the truck and trailers I was to drive (till the new truck finally gets here) in the yard early so I could go over them and give them a tidy up if needed. In the end I had to go to Sydney to pick up the truck, that then involved some issues before I even started it up. Then there was the other truck which had left before me and he had a problem, with more that just mechanical issues, some of understanding and language as well.

So, “Rod will you please go out and see what the problem is and report please”? on my way back to Dubbo. It turned out to be the gearbox, but was not immediately obvious and we ended up having to drop one trailer, bring the truck back down the (big) hill and then tow the other truck up to the top, go back and hook up and go to Dubbo.

Seeing us in the dark (I had triangles out) and had just given me new shoulder a good workout winding down the legs and had unhooked the hoses and lights to tow the broken down one to the top, I saw some blue and red lights behind us. I went back to explain and was asked why were we in the dark and where was my mask? So I explained and thought, they might stay with their lights on while we moved at least one bit, but no, “Don’t be long” and they were gone. I was perhaps a bit jabbery, but was trying to get it done as we were only inches off the road and not in the best spot.

Then I had a plan to have all day Monday to get my gear together, get a few things tidied up on the truck and trailers Tuesday morning (due to the NSW public holiday), but got a text apologising for interrupting me, but could I call. One of the drivers wife had been taken to hospital and I may be needed tomorrow, could I help? She may be OK, but will know in the morning. Yes I can go if needed, Thanks.

Nine AM Sunday, you’re up. I had a timeslot to load, got most of my gear and by ten was on my way got my next covid test, did shopping, gear in and on the way to break down half way there. Mechanic came out, sorted, rang the loading point again to say I was now on the way and when I got there, they said “You will get a good nights sleep in here, we will even turn the lights off”. I was the last truck to load Sunday and whilst they were not impressed, they were fans and like many during the week wanted to know what I had done wrong, was I being punished, where was the TIV etc?

That was the start of the week and it never got much better. You all know how things change and no one else customers etc, care about your time as much as you do. I had to deliver another driver to pick up a truck and he did not want to sit in the passenger seat while I slept, as I had to do a delivery first (geez Peter, I am not that bad company am I) so we compromised and I had tea and a shower and went back to the truck to sleep, leaving early the next morning and that threw me out a bit later that night.

Again, it was not the week from hell, it was just a normal week nearly, but as the first week back after 6 months off and aiming to be gentle on my new shoulder, some of the steel gates have tested it, but some places did help or did so when I asked, but some like always, you do it all on your own and hurry up without even a please, let alone a thank you.

So three states, many passes, tests and highways covered, very nearly 5000k, so kept going and just 24 hours off and back into it tomorrow. Lucky I love this job! Still so much to do, the Newell hasn’t got much better overall, we lost 20 unmarked informal truck spaces with the work towards Goondiwindi and now they have closed the southbound More pads with gates. The Pacific still needs a changeover bay somewhere, yet the new Grafton bypass looks a million dollar road, does have two big new parking bays (and I slept in one) and I only found one bad dip.

The new TIV is still coming, is painted and getting radios, a turntable, central tyre inflation and one or two more things and then off to Brissie for the balance. Maybe on the road in a month.

So now for the video. I heard the other day there are over 200,000 truck drivers in Australia, but I bet less than 10,000 are in associations. I will ask all of you for two things and want you to comment, either tell me how to do it better, or what I am doing wrong. If you join one for one year, then I want you to push them to support our 6 point plan. If you have the solution, let’s hear it. If not give this a try for one year. I don’t think it is too much to ask. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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26th September 2021 CATCHING UP.

Goodaye all. This is my catch up for my Facebook page “Audiobooks for the road”. I though I may as well put it up here as well. Being off the road has meant no need for audio books and whilst I have been reading, it is not the same, perhaps better with the time, but on the road, I miss my reading. I read all the industry press and much online from overseas, again about industry to keep in the loop and this of course takes a lot of time and leaves little time for reading for enjoyment, but my audio book page and the reviews of what I have read was enjoyed by some and has been very quiet while I was off.

Many of you as drivers will still have been on the road. If all goes to plan, I will be back on the road after next week-end in a brown Pilon’s Kenworth till the new TIV prime mover comes in about 3 or 4 weeks. They say good things come to those who wait and it has been a long and busy one.
My shoulder surgery went well, they say full bicep strength, (though they could only attach it so far up as it had shrunk) in 9 months, so December, but I can only expect perhaps 90% maximum. Full shoulder strength will take 12 months and again, perhaps even 95%. So the sleeping in a sling was the worst, but since out of that and exercises starting at half a kilo and now all done as far as can be with a clearance due next week, I thank the doctor for at this stage, a terrific job. Once back at work will see how effective the repairs.

So I have not been reading audio books (and watched very little television until even last week, too much other stuff to do. However I love my reading, and completed the Assassin’s Apprentice series by Robin Hobb and have now gone onto the Tawny Man series of three and bought all six, so then onto the next as well. I did get a good deal on the sets of three and am into book two. I finished “Fools Errand”, now 10 years plus on from the last book and am half way through “The Golden Fool”. The praise for these books form others is well justified from my viewpoint. They are engrossing, interesting and read very well.

Those of you who followed past posts will know of my appreciation of the “Rangers Apprentice” series and I must say, I have enjoyed these new ones as much if not more. It has been my practice to read (listen to) audio books on the road, but then to physically read at night, both for pleasure and as my sleep trigger. In this job the hours and where you are varies so much, it can sometimes be hard to get to sleep. So I did some investigation and reading was one suggestion to virtually set your mind into sleep time.

If I have plenty of time, then I can read and enjoy, but if I need to get my beauty sleep but have little s[pare time and can’t afford to waste or lose good sleep time, I read as my “It is time to sleep now” trigger. Sometimes I will barely read a page and be nodding off, other times it is a bit longer, but as someone who has loved reading most of my life, it works for me. So once back on the road, I will have the following books in the series to keep me going for quite awhile.

I just wanted to touch base, hope you have all kept safe and apologize for not being there for you. Those who have enjoyed the reviews and comments, I hope that will continue into the future. Hopefully, till next week plus, I wish you Safe Travelling till then. Rod Hannifey CF