21st January 2018 A tragic week.

Goodaye all. It has been a tragic week for crashes and deaths on the road and unless any of us were involved in each of these incidents, we can only go on what we hear and learn from press and others and most of them, were not there either. Yes in weeks, months or years, there will be completion of a crash inquiry and for those involving deaths, a Coroners Report, but that will not stop a crash tomorrow and is so far away, we are unlikely to learn much to help now.

Following the tanker crash the CEO of Toll issued a letter to the Prime Minister and others as an operators perspective, saying we have had enough inquiries and that we must do something now and that was before the Dubbo crash. He also said Toll as the biggest, must be included.

These are his 6 points taken from a copy sent to me by one of the media groups I spoke to. 1. Have one rule book for heavy vehicles and drivers across the country including  a national approach to mandatory stationary rest times, speed limits and driver licensing. (abridged) 2. Introduce a national operator licensing system. 3. Enhance community understanding of how to drive around trucks, including through the graduated licensing system and education campaigns. 4. Incentivise and reward safe, modern fleets with life-saving technologies. 5. Make telematics mandatory for regulatory purposes. 6. Draw on private sector expertise from transport operators in any discussion on improving road safety outcomes pertaining to heavy vehicles.

I applaud him making the effort and he is far more likely to have the Prime Minister take note, than he will of my list. I agree with points  1, 3 and 6 with the note 6 must also include those who live and work on the road, not just the big companies who are not there for us, as drivers. In point one he mentions mandatory stationary rest times, but completely fails to mention the lack of rest areas or penalties, or lack of flexibility.

I have done a number of media interviews during the week and heard others. I do agree with the Australian Trucking Associations’ call for better crash investigation and this has been asked for by others for many years. How can we change things if we do not have the unbiased and unemotional data from those who can do a complete investigation? Those involved at such sites have enough tragedy to deal with at the time and later investigations can have media push and frenzy, pushing them for someone to blame.

In the media I said that there must be drivers involved with any of this, as I have for years. I have pushed to get better notice of industry requests for submissions towards better outcomes and my view is that those who make, implement and police our laws, do not have to live by them and have all the toilets, facilities and their needs met close at hand, when there are not even enough rest areas, let alone recognition of the job we do and the life we lead, to feed and clothe every Australian.

So this is my list and I would welcome your thoughts. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

  1. Driver education is the biggest issue. For car drivers about sharing the road with trucks, to learn 60 plus tonne of b-double will not stop, simply because you pulled out in front of it, is a bad lesson to learn as it kills you. We do not teach young people (who like you and I are all bullet proof when they get their license) about sharing the road with large trucks. If we included a video of the Truckies Top Ten Tips at time of licensing, that would help. It is visual and so will be retained, it could be done from the truckies seat and so be accurate and surely 10 minutes at time of licensing towards the next 60 years on the road, is not too much to give. There must also be better training of truck drivers, particularly those who come from overseas. All must be tested and capable, instead of just being given a license when they may never have driven trucks of the size we operate here. A national licensing system with national standards can only come when we have suitable training.
  2. The impacts that our roads have on crashes is often overlooked. Yes our roads are better than they were in most places, but our maintenance is terrible. There is a section of the Cunningham Highway just south of Yelarbon that I have been asking to have fixed for over 4 years! It is dangerous. Yet after threatening to make more noise, they got surveyors out who agree it is a problem, but they have no money to fix it they say. I told them if there is a fatality there, I will hold them responsible as they knew and did nothing about it and this is everywhere. Roads must be built and repaired to a safe standard, not patched each week, or have the patch make it worse. Road irregularities that cause impacts that are double the weight of the truck, because the surface is so bad, (and I can document and list these) will kill people. There must be a national road standard, so that I can show a problem that is likely to cause and or contribute to a crash, that it is fixed quickly, not in 5 years. There must also be some value in what we get for our money. Fifteen, million dollar machines all idle while 3 blokes sweep a road, is not good value. There must be some warranty period, so that they can’t just come back next week and charge again, for a lousy repair in the first place.
  3. Rest areas. There are not enough! How can we manage our fatigue when there is no shade, not enough room to get away from a frig van or stock truck or to open your windows and bunk doors, or if you are lucky enough to have an ICEPACK, to get far enough away not to interrupt some other drivers sleep. We need sites to encourage car drivers to stop, so they need to be clean and have toilets, we need enough for caravaners so they do not take up truckies spots, we need sites with all the facilities for all, as we cannot afford and never should have, separate sites for each. If well designed, such sites will suit all and with more cars stopped during the day and more trucks stopped at night, we will get the best utilisation and benefit for the money spent. Like the roads, do it once, but do it right.
  4. We need recognition that not all people or drivers are the same and that the fatigue regulations must have some flexibility for different people. Telematics for companies to monitor is fine, but micromanaging drivers to the minute and the metre, will not stop crashes. Yes we need rules, but a fine in the thousands of dollars because a driver went 15 minutes further to get a toilet, a shower or a better meal, and they are becoming harder to find, cannot be justified.
  5. Yes we need national regulations. We are closer now than we have ever been and it must be completed. I do agree to some differences, but not thousands. National registration and licensing to give both a view to how we operate, what we need and a base line for those entering the industry is good, but not to exclude all so big companies can do what they like. If you help or subsidise big companies to adopt new technologies, how will the little bloke ever compete. In the aim of fairness, we should be helping the little bloke to be safer and more competitive and give better service.
  6. There must be more truck driver input and understanding of the job by all. Yes car drivers are on the road with us and yes, they too have a right to have a say, but few of them have ever been in a truck and so how can they understand trucks, let alone tell us what to do. Our industry is so wide spread and diverse, we cover from one end of the country to the other and we have so many different parts, livestock, general, tippers, tankers, frig vans, oversize etc, that we struggle to get together and agree on what we need.

I cannot fix the problem, nor can you, but if we do recognise those that do the job, I believe we will get a better response. Some of the media did recognise the improvements we have made, some did specify that the majority of car/truck fatal crashes are the fault of the car driver, but many did not know nor were they interested. I “expert” raised concerns about the safer b-doubles being involved in these crashes and that implied they were not as safe as told, but has he ever been in one?

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