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.

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.

Canada 12th August 2018

Goodaye all. I am in Burlington Toronto Canada, staying with Bruce Outridge and yesterday we attended the Great Canadian Truckshow at Flamboro. It has been an interesting couple of days and does show, you never know who you will meet or where it will lead.

Years ago I had spoken with Stan Campbell, a Canadian truck radio show host, doing an interview over the phone about trucking here. I had contacted Stan prior to the Churchill Fellowship trip and he had said contact him when I get to the USA, which I did and we did an 18 minute interview about the trip. Stan followed up with an email, listing some other contacts he suggested I try and speak with.

The first was James Menzie who is the editor of TRUCKNEWS based in Toronto and I rang and contacted James who was under a deadline and couldn’t come to me, so I went to visit him in the new offices only opened a couple of weeks ago. We chatted and taped an interview and as we got back to the foyer, I was asked are you the Aussie? Another call I had made to Bruce, though it seems he had trouble understanding my wide Aussie accent on the phone in a noisy environment and had asked his wife to track me down on my phone.

Using it here has lead to some not being able to call me back, but Carmen did and had rang just as I arrived at James’ reception. I had though it was James, as I was a bit late and Carmen asked where I was. I gave the address and Bruce had been on his way there for an interview about the new offices and the merger of two trucking publication houses coming together here.Bruce and Rod.Bruce and Rod.We then filmed a podcast and Bruce knows all these people very well having worked with them for years. Bruce then did the podcast he had come to do with Manan Gupta the new General Manager of Newcom South Asian Media Company and I was then invited to tag along for a tour of the new floor of offices and met more staff. We had a cup of coffee and met some more of the team there and Bruce asked where I was going next.

My initial plan had not born such magnificent fruit as this series of events and I did not have a specific aim when that did not go as well as hoped, but had moved straight on to visit James. However, Bruce told me he was attending a truckshow the next day and invited me to stay with him and then attend. Bruce and his lovely wife Carmen took me in and fed me and have looked after me like family for the last three days and I cannot thank them enough, for adopting an Aussie truckie a long way from home.

Bruce is an avid industry advocate here, having been an owner operator, driver and was awarded 2011 Industry Ambassador, writes about the industry, does podcasts under the banner, Lead Pedal Podcast and is not only a passionate trucker, but a talented artist and caricature artist as well.

This was only the second year for the truckshow and attending on Friday being the set up day, had only a number of very keen and passionate people there. But all of the trucks were beautiful and there were drivers doing all the last minute touch ups and polishing for the real full on show for Saturday and Sunday. The driver shortage or is it a pay shortage in the USA, is the biggest people issue in the industry wherever I have gone. The UK is looking for drivers, the US and Canada as well with a number of companies attending, aiming to recruit drivers to the fold.

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Some companies had a truck and or staff on hand and hope to get some good leads and drivers during the days of the show. Being set up day and having 85 trucks last year, I can only imagine they will have a fantastic turn up of trucks and wish them all the best for the show. A barbeque was held for all attending Friday night, but we left to have some tea and Bruce has other commitments today, so I am trying to catch up here, before hitting the road.

I spent time on the phone with Matt Richardson from the Truck Training School Association of Toronto, another contact from Stan, but all of those Stan put in contact with are friends and industry colleagues and have all been interested and welcoming.
Canada was the birthplace of the b-double and where Australia got the idea from and that was the reason I wanted to include Canada in my itinerary. There are still very new looking combinations on the road in the same original spec, prime mover with a tri-axle and then a bogie and from my perspective, we have gone a long way from there, going then bogie/tri, then tri/tri, quad/quad super b’s and now up to the very recent announcement of a b-quad. With such different weight laws in the many states of the US, Canada has both a Federal regulation, but each of the provinces has its’ own as well. Sounds like the bad old days in Aus, perhaps we have actually moved forward, even if only with some things, with the NHVR.

I have a couple more contacts to follow up and thank all in Canada, particularly Bruce and Carmen for their hospitality and friendliness.

I am off now to visit Kenworth at Chillacothe, then Cummins in Jamestown where they make the ISX 15 we use with such gusto in Australia, then a truck show in Eau Claire and onwards towards the Great American Truckshow in Dallas. It has been a long way across the USA and into Canada, lots of photos, some interesting drivers and videos, though most are happy to talk, not all want to be videoed and I am still collating and asking, “What is you biggest road safety concern on the highway here?”
There is much alignment with our issues at home, some variation on who or what is the worst, but my aim is still the same, to ask and to learn and put a friendly face forward for Aussie trucking. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey http://www.truckright.com.au

6th August 2018 St Paul Minnesota

Goodaye all. The PACCAR Technical Centre and test track are a marvellous facility to make Kenworths better and stronger for the road. I was not allowed to take photos inside, but what toys they have, including trucks. Things I still can’t pronounce, that do not only stress testing of components, but to a near cell level and a number of engine test beds, jigs for accelerating stress and mileage on trucks and a test track.

It would cost a fortune to test a new truck and or engine for a million miles on the road, drivers, fuel and even running 24 hours a day, a long time indeed. But not only can they run engines under very consistent conditions continuously in bays, to ascertain fuel use, parts life etc, they can alter those conditions from I think it was 30 below to 55 above. They can also change the air intake to reflect operating at altitude and run trucks on dynamometers to again confirm specific outputs and component life.

It was suggested they could do a million miles of testing on the test track in 3 to 4 months and for structural parts, in 3 to 4 weeks on a jig. Of course on the road you do not hit the dips and potholes every inch of the way and so on the test track and then even more on the jigs, they can replicate very harsh conditions not only consistently, but at a much accelerated pace than would occur on the road, hence saving costs, reducing testing time and supplying a product meant to last.

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You might not think these offset bumps look too bad and maybe not much worse than some culverts on the Newell, but they do test them pretty hard here.

After the tour I headed back down towards Seattle and stayed on the other side at Smokey Point Rest Area again for the night. I then travelled into Everett and visited the Boeing factory. I spent some time on the deck and saw one of the DREAM Lifters land, bringing a set of wings from Japan and then did the Boeing Factory Tour.

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The plane in the foreground picks up the engines which are too heavy for the Dreamlifter to carry. Then it was time to head east. I drove into the night up and own through the mountains with chaining up bays until finally another rest area, they got thin and far apart here.

In the morning I took some photos and video and watched a fellow drop his trailer in the rest area. I walked over and he had some ramps down and was backing his 3 wheeler trike up onto the gooseneck. His wife had been riding it as he was too heavy on the drive (the trike weighs 800kg he said) for the scales I stopped at the night before, but his wife was suffering from the heat as she had the day before. When his wife first started travelling with him, they had rented cars and it had cost a fortune, so the bike was bought and carried and when they are held over, they go sightseeing and his wife “drives” the trike.

He detailed her first trip, hearing all these gasps and wondering where and why. He looked and it was his wife, saying “Did you see that car driver cut you off and the other one?” “Yes” he said, “Welcome to my world” and so I asked him to do a video and he told his wife, we are having a 30 minute break now.

After I offered where I am from, what I am doing etc, another driver answered my introductory question, “What is your biggest road safety concern on the highway?” with other drivers in cars. This has been consistently the biggest response, but there have been a few who have said other truck drivers. He also explained the lift axles you will see on many trucks are to comply with US laws after loading in Canada where the laws are more lenient for weight. Lift axles cannot be used in Canada and must be chained up if you go to California. One driver had a sticker on his truck, “I refuse to travel to the Republic of California”. Few like going there it seems.

I visited my first “Loves Truckstop” where there is a wall of coffee, a wall of soda (softdrink) a bay with 10 different sausages cooking continuously and tried 2 for $3.99, each on a bun and including condiments and tax, $4.29 and a large (read bloody big) Pepsi for $1.69 and tax, $1.82. I did not find another Loves till Saturday night and they all have Subway (like we do in Australia) linked to their shop, but no restaurants of their own anywhere. This photo from a Pilot/Flying J I think, but they all have serious coffee issues.

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While eating my dogs, the store manager was interviewing a lady for a job there and not only was he very passionate, he would have nearly convinced me to apply. I then stopped at my first Flying J Pilot truckstop. Had a sticky beak (and every time I said this I got strange looks and was asked “What”, then parked on the shoulder and walked up and got some footage from the overpass.

I am in St Paul Minnesota now and going for a tour with 3M tomorrow in their Transport Safety Division. It has been a long drive across from Seattle, stopping at many truckstops and rest areas and speaking with drivers, taking photos and a few videos. In the first few days I could not find a truckstop with its own restaurant and even last night used one in the same complex, but not part of the chain

Some do have good parking and there are some rest areas we would kill for, but I do wonder about the problem and the solution. Whilst in the first couple of days across Washington and Montana, there were signs for each rest area and then another sign saying next rest area 86 Miles for example, show there are some big gaps. Signs at each exit listed Lodging and if too many choices, another sign showing who for gas and food. There were truckstops too, but having been reasonably frequent, when they disappear without notice and you just have to keep driving, it can be a big gap.

I pulled into a weighbridge in Montana late the first night out from Boeing and spent nearly an hour chatting with the fellows there and of course, one of their staff is a big “Outback Truckers” fan. My first turnpike triple rolled in while I was there and they said, “We can stop him for you” but I doubted the driver would be so happy to be stopped just for me. They were good to talk to and I left them with the thought of our sausage sizzle weighbridge days and they had done similar things but 15 or more years ago and vowed to check my website and follow up with the discussion we had.

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Now into my seventh day here and travelled some miles, that is the only weighbridge I have seen open. The signs change for rest areas as do the speed laws in different states, the roads have been terrific with the odd bump, but I have been mostly on Interstates. Road works that go for miles with no work on the week ends as I have travelled here, but still the speedlimit only drops to 55 MPH unless there is a narrow part and then to 45MPH, but there are signs saying the penalty doubles if workers present.

Whilst I was told there is meant to be a national road transport agreement across the US, Canada and Mexico, each state still has its’ own laws, sound familiar? I think we have made a good leap from where we were with our just 7 sets of laws, to now really two.

But Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) have impacted some more than others and a driver today, when asked the standard intro question, complained about truckers simply stopping on the side of the interstate for their half hour break, which they never had to have till the last rule change and that it was legal to park on freeway ramp shoulders.

There is a booming market here for new trucks with a record number on order this month, over 50,000 with 41,800 and 18,000 trailers ordered last month, but it was said some may be over ordering just to get trucks, as the delay can be up to 6 months. Another radio interview said the whole transport industry here was under stress, lots of freight, a driver turnover rate of over 100% for some fleets, difficulty getting new trucks, the ELDs and a lack of rest areas. But who is there for the drivers?

I have just done an interview for a Truckers Podcast radio show and have been confirmed a stand at the Great American Truckshow, so will be able to put all the TIV banners up etc. Sorting visits now to Cummins, Kenworth and a couple of smaller truckshows, along with a visit to Toronto if all goes to plan. Till next we chat, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.