23rd June 2019 Fatigue Co-design Wshop

Goodaye all. On Thursday I attended the NTC run Fatigue Co-design Workshop held in Sydney. There were about 60 people in attendance, many from interstate, associations and government bodies, a few from large companies and small and some drivers. Whilst the fatigue paper is currently out for submissions, this is the only formal meeting about the fatigue paper. It is 60 pages, but even if you don’t have the time to read and fully respond, please take the time to contribute. If there is one fatigue issue that really causes you problems, or you believe does not help you manage your fatigue and you can supply an example, if that is all you do, send it in.

If enough drivers complain of a similar problem and can show why it is a problem, that will be a powerful case for change. We did a number of sessions and discussion forums on a range of issues and each group tabled their outcomes. All of these were then discussed and debated by the whole group and will go into the data used to look at the problems raised in the paper and the submissions to it.

It was good to have a small group of drivers and a couple of small fleet people to get our views heard. There was support and recognition from others of some of our issues. I did raise the specific comment, that if you are looking at fatigue generally, then without good sleep and a place to have that good quality sleep, you cannot manage your fatigue. Lack of sleep not only leaves you tired, overtime it does and will affect your health. So until we have suitable and sufficient rest areas, decent size bunks on trucks and icepacks, some may well still get good sleep, but many won’t and fatigue will continue to be a problem. The lack of places within cities to park and sleep in a truck, is just as severe as on the highway.

Flexibility was the biggest request from drivers, not more hours, but the ability to manage our fatigue, to drive when fit and sleep when tired and not when a logbook, which does not know how you feel and can well work against you, tells you to. The logbook doesn’t care if there is no toilet, shade or anything else you may require, it just forces you to do what it requires under law, whether that is the best for your fatigue or not and of course, if you disagree and do what might be the best for you at the time, the logbook will punish you severely if you don’t do what it requires of you for legal compliance.

I am glad I attended, hope that those issues raised will be looked at in genuine good faith and I thank the NTC for the invite and help to be able to attend. I would have loved to have seen more than the two fulltime drivers in attendance, but believe we covered most of the issues well and as I said, others from different groups did seem to recognise and respect many of the points we raised.

Back to work today to see how a few repairs go on truck and trailers, having made the most of the time off to attend the meeting, getting a service and a diff attended to during my absence. Thanks also to Rod Pilon Transport for the time to attend. Whilst I stayed up late into early Wednesday morning to do my spot on Nightshift with Luke and Jess, I was working on my fatigue paper reply whilst waiting to go on air and I again implore you to contribute with submissions due in August, so you still have time to get your comments and issues in. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey

16th June 2019 Be heard!

Goodaye all. Have you read the NTC Fatigue paper? Yes it is 60 pages, but do you have a problem with our fatigue laws? If so, will you do something to see them improved. A month ago, I went to court in Gilgandra for my first ever log book offence in 30 years on the road. It is in my column in Owner Driver this month and the following, is what I wrote before I attended court, so I would have my list of reasons why the ticket should be dismissed.

1. The alleged offense on the 26th November 2019 was not intentional. I did not drive 14 plus hours straight. I overlapped a half hour. It can be difficult to remember every period driven and your breaks and to do so, you must then continually go back and forth in your logbook. Having had a 7 hour break the night before, had things gone as normal, I would have been later getting out of Melbourne and then been legal. It is unusual to get out of Melbourne early and as I went in empty and was lucky to get loaded straight away, I thought, this is good, I will beat the traffic and get most of the way home for a good nights sleep.

2. The logbook states in rules for counting time, “Count time periods of 24 hours or longer forward from the end of a relevant major rest break relevant to the period in your hours option” Who then decides which is the “relevant” period? If it is about managing fatigue, I only worked for 6 and a quarter hours, then had a 7 hour break. I did not have to go far to go to bed, nor to start work. My truck is fitted with an Icepack, a refrigerated air conditioning system that ensures consistent temperature and covers much outside noise, so I did get good sleep in that break. I also ensured that sleep was from around midnight and did so again the next day, so have made every effort to be off the road in the very early hours of the morning, recognised as the worst time for fatigue. I overlapped at 6.15PM the following night and did have a break from 7PM till 7.45 for my tea and then stopped at Parkes at 12.15AM for 9 and a quarter hours break. I stopped to manage my fatigue, I was not in any way shape or form, fatigued at 6.15PM

3. On Wednesday the 28th November at 5.30PM, two days after the alleged breach I was stopped and inspected, my logbook checked and signed at Daroolbaggie with no concern raised. This officer must obviously have used the end of the seven hour period as the “relevant” period. He obviously did not detect me then as fatigued, nor see me as in breach.

4. The logbook requires us to operate in 15 minute periods. We are required to count work time forward and so can “lose” and or give away, work time. In the 24 hour period in question, I stopped 8 times. Even if I lost only 3 minutes each of those times and it could have been up to 10 minutes, then it is quite likely if the actual time was counted, I may not have exceeded 14 hours. I have already previously written to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator asking for the wording to be changed to read, “count forward from the LAST major rest break” to both allow us a minor amount of flexibility and to overcome this type of overlap error and the subsequent penalties. I have also written and will be doing so again, to the current National Heavy Vehicle Law Review, seeking this change and a way to recognise a good record and allow one mistake in a given period.

5. I did ask the officer if he had looked at my record and he said it was, “not bad”. I have driven interstate for 30 years, done 6 million kilometres and never had a single logbook offense and only one speeding warning. I have never ever “lost” a logbook to hide an error and am very involved in road safety and try to do the right thing. I would hope you might agree one minor overlap in 30 years is not the record of a law breaker and that with this, a warning, again considering the RMS saw no breach, would have been reasonable. I will be writing the HVNL review asking to have something put in place that will allow a minor error every five years (or around one million kilometres for most interstate truck drivers) as no one is perfect. All drivers are allowed one mistake in every ten years in NSW for a minor traffic offense and I think this is reasonable considering they will only do possibly 200,000 kilometres and we do that each year.

The judge dismissed the offence with the prosecutor, (the Police did not attend) saying, for a professional driver that is not a good record, that is an exceptional record. I am not perfect and have never claimed to be, but I can hardly ask others to do the right thing if I don’t. On the other side, I have to get the job done and will be seen as a goody two shoes if I do it perfectly and never make a mistake. It can be a balancing act, having had others say in the past, “You are on their side”, the authorities, because I don’t call them all the names under the sun in my column and comments.

My response was that if I do, (like others) will they, the authorities be likely to fix a bit of road or listen to me, when I want a rest area built or improved? Not likely. The driver who had made the initial comment, then said, “Oh, I had not thought of that or seen it that way”. Yes we all want things done, but we have to ask the right way and abusing people will never get them to listen to your needs and requests.

This list formed part of my submission to the first NTC NHVL paper and so I will follow through with the effort. It cost me $700 in lost wages, time and fuel to travel to Gilgandra and now I find I could have asked for costs when it was dismissed. Why can we not have a central place to get fair justice when we are supposed to have a national license and national heavy vehicle laws and regulator?

When the NHVR was first formed, I asked this question at one meeting, to be told, we will look at that. At the next meeting when I asked again, I was told it was too hard. If murderers can get a video trial, why can’t we get a cheap and reasonable way to defend ourselves against a police or authority ticket issued in a state well away from home, with them knowing it will cost us more to defend that the ticket itself? Is that fair justice, NO. Will it change? Not unless we demand a fair go. Will you do something to see this change? Then write, email or ring the NTC and contribute to the Fatigue review.

I currently hope to attend the one and only NTC meeting in Sydney next week for the fatigue review and will be putting this forward yet again. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

9th June 2019

Goodaye all. Short and sweet this week. A big week on the road, some fun loading a jigsaw puzzle and some not so fun, being at the end of the chain of responsibility. The driver still carries the can and for those who are well removed from the freight they want carried, but who either don’t care about how their actions affect our lives, even simply getting sleep when you can if delayed, let alone in so many other ways.

People make mistakes, someone else causes a screw up and someone has to fix it. That happens and is a part of all business, not just transport and we mess up too at times, no one is perfect. We should all then know how important information is, what went wrong, when the freight is timeslotted for delivery, what can be done to help you do it for them (and save their bacon), but it seems it is often simply too much to pass it on, to then help us with compliance and getting the job done safely and on time. We will see how it turns out, I did my bit and got there safely and on time, but still got stuffed about at the other end, seems one screwing over was not enough.

I have started reading the 60 plus pages of the second HVNL 2nd document, about fatigue this one and very timely. Still too long perhaps and I have had further discussions with the NTC, ATA and others in the media about my concerns. If you have one problem and you can explain and detail and also offer a suggested improvement, I highly recommend you at least do that. If enough drivers highlight the same problem, we can at least hope it will gain some reaction.

The ATA and QTA have both offered to accept drivers views and comments towards their submissions and that is another welcome opportunity for drivers who do not have the time for the whole shebang to read and respond as the papers are quite extensive. Would a flyer in servos with some simple questions get to more drivers? Have we only got to those who read the industry press and still many do not even know of the review? What do you think?

I spoke with a mate during the week, asking him to consider putting in a submission. He said he still loves trucks, but whilst he has a good job now, perhaps even the best he has ever had, he is over the industry. He also made the comment, in the 20 years he has made the effort to “get involved”, write submissions and the like, there has not been one thing from those efforts that has filtered down to him on the road as a driver and whilst that may seem, me, me, me, that is why people contribute to see things change and he has been sadly disappointed each and every time he has made the effort.

I have said this, many times. Many drivers are cynical of such reviews, interviews and those seeking submissions and I will happily be corrected if anyone can show me a change from such. In 2003 I went to Canberra, was the only driver to speak at the “National Enquiry into Road Safety”, was then asked for a “one pager” from the Chairman on an issue and delivered it within the week. From that enquiry, there were 35 recommendations made by the committee, three of which were mostly mine, the then blue reflector markings of informal truck bays, signing the length of overtaking lanes (the one pager) and still two more I was a part of and not one of those recommendations was ever acted on.

No wonder we are a cynical bunch, yet here I am again reading and submitting and asking you to do the same. Why? Because it may well be our best chance to get something changed that will affect us on the road. If only a couple of drivers submit, then it can’t really be a problem, or more would have, they will say. So, it is up to us. Please make the effort, one more time or do this one if you have never done so before. Off to load tomorrow for Melbourne Tuesday, what long week-end? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey

2nd June 2019 Nag, Nag, Nag.

Goodaye all. Just grabbing a quick lunch of chicken with rice and lemon and off to Toowoomba again. Started an audio book supplied by young Gregory, only to be told I was reading the wrong one first. Damn, I was just getting into it, but thank goodness, hopefully haven’t gone too far to spoil it for later. I missed last weeks’ entry for my other Facebook page “Audiobooks for the road” another spare time activity, so if you read them, have a look and participate.

That of course has been my theme for the week, getting others to participate in the HVNL review. I have raised my concerns in a number of media outlets and avenues, rang mates and asked them to have a look and even asked drivers on the UHF. Most have said, they will have a look, but also said it is a big ask simply for time. We are all time poor and if you have to decide whether to look at 70 pages, or keep your wife and or family happy when you are never there anyway, which will give you more life value?

The NTC have responded saying they want input and that is a good step, yet I fear from those I have asked, that they have either watched others and seen them respond with no changes, or have made the effort, with one mate saying, “I still love trucks, but I am over the industry. I have contributed to many things over the years and not once, have I seen an improvement in something directly helping me.”

If not enough respond, will we get any improvement? Yes there is the microsite where you can have a whinge, raise a problem, but there is not enough room for the solution. You still have to sign up and or log in and I spent time looking for the other submissions with no luck and gave up. I am keen, others maybe not so much and how hard will they try if it is just too difficult, no matter how easy someone else will tell you it is.

The ATA have also responded saying they will also help any member get their views across and I very much welcome that, both in intent and the offer itself. I have not seen any of their member associations put in submissions, but hope they have. If we all rely and contribute to the single ATA submission and no one else does individually, do you think that will be recognised as serious and get the right response?

I would like to see hundreds of drivers contribute, even if they only put in the one thing that really gives them trouble on the road. It does need to be a genuine concern, with details, the problem and a possible solution. These real life events and issues showing the problems and why they are problems, may well see more done than any single industry submission in itself, whether it represents ten associations or ten drivers. The more effort put in, hopefully the better the outcome, but that is where the past is making many cynical.

What is your one biggest problem, why and what is the solution. If you only send that in, I will be personally thankful. Is the process right? Will we get value for the money spent? Those questions cannot be answered till the end and I hope you don’t get sick of my nagging, but I want it fixed and better for drivers. What do you want? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.