15th September 2019 The USA and Us.

Goodaye all. I will be off to work in a few hours and last week, came across this post from young Wendy. Wendy rides with her partner in the USA and writes this piece for Landline magazine and to be fair, this is the complete piece. So I am sharing it with you, but have contacted Wendy as well telling her of my intent. I did have the pleasure of meeting her at the Great American Truck Show (GATS) in Dallas last year at the end of my Churchill Fellowship trip. She can be funny and yet conveys many important messages. What she speaks of here rings so true with many of our problems and should make us think and try harder, to be not only heard, but listened to. How we do that, is the big question.

“It’s almost like lawmakers didn’t listen”
SEPTEMBER 6, 2019 Wendy Parker
When I was a kid there was one phrase my momma used (often) to freeze me in my tracks and listen.
She’d sneak up on me and my brothers like a well-trained ninja and at just the moment any of us (mostly me) did something stupid she’d appear out of thin air to question our complete understanding of how decent human beings are supposed to act with one simple query.
“What in the world is wrong with you?
Woe be unto the offender if it was followed up by, “You better look at me when I’m talking to you,” because the answer could be, “My hair is on fire,” and it wouldn’t matter. Whatever was done in the process of catching your own fool hair on fire was an affront to the general population and, most importantly, something momma couldn’t fathom.
My mom is the kind of parent who would pat out the flames, put some Mercurochrome on the open wounds, and promptly whip a hind-end for playing with matches.
(Side note: Anyone else remember Mercurochrome? I believe it was made of lemon juice and battery acid, mixed with fire ant venom and enough orange dye No. 2 left over to paint your toenails. Pretty sure it was outlawed in the Geneva Convention as “cruel and unusual.”)
I was reminded of the terror momma’s simple question invoked in me as a child while chatting with her a couple weeks ago. Our conversation wandered to trucking, like it always does. She asked, “Honey, why do all these big trucks just pull over to the side of the highway to park? It’s so dangerous.”
I explained to her about the ELD, hours of service and lack of parking all being contributors. She asked, “Well, who makes those rules?”
I told her the FMCSA enacts and enforces rules made by politicians.
I was unprepared when she whipped out the dreaded question, “Well what in the world is wrong with them?”
Of course, her question was rhetorical this time, but it got me thinking about some things.
Trucking’s hair is on fire, and truck drivers didn’t have anything to do with setting it aflame. It’s almost like professional drivers told lawmakers how bad things could get and they didn’t listen.
Trucking advocates asked lawmakers to “look at us” when we were talking to them about the devastating effects enacting the ELD rule would have without amending the HOS. They need to listen. The lawmakers countered with, “It will increase compliance which in turn will save lives.”
Cue a Maury Povich voice-over, because that’s how I imagine this information should be presented to lawmakers: “In the case of HOS Compliance Equates to Safety, the numbers gathered since forced ELD implementation reveal: That is a lie.”
Well isn’t that special? Let’s carry on.
Trucking advocates asked for mandatory driver training rules to make sure new drivers were properly trained. The powers-that-be agreed and set about an arduous process of gathering information with which to craft effective, comprehensive laws regarding driver training.
In my best Morgan Freeman voice, because this sad soliloquy is worthy of Freeman’s vocal timbre: “After many, many hours of unpaid time and travel, the recommendations made by a committee of transportation professionals were almost completely ignored. Further insult was added by failing to require any physical behind-the-wheel requirements in mandatory training. The driver training rule was, in fact, reduced to little more than lip service that will end up taking half a decade to come to fruition.”
Oh my.
And just in case there needed to be more fuel added to the hair-on-fire status, for many years trucking advocates have insisted to anyone who would listen that detention time was one of the most pressing issues in the industry.
Again, lawmakers assured, “An ELD will help drivers get paid for detention time. It will also even the playing field and drive up rates.”
In my best Oprah voice, because she once epitomized the frantic jubilation of unfettered screaming joy: “Who wants an HOS exemption?! Does everyone want one? YES! Does it completely undermine the rules to give out multiple exemptions? WHO CARES? Here’s an exemption, and here’s an exemption! Level playing field? What’s that? We’re giving EXEMPTIONS!”
“Level playing field” is a stupid business term and it is impossible to achieve while outside forces (like slow-poke shippers and receivers) aren’t held responsible for screwing up the flow of commerce by keeping drivers for ridiculous amounts of (often unpaid) time.
Well whaddya know? Drivers have been telling lawmakers this very thing for many years now.
They didn’t listen.
So to answer your question momma, what’s wrong is, we have lawmakers who believe more regulation is the answer, when in fact, it is not. And until we can convince the folks in charge of making rules that compliance does not equal safety, you will continue to see trucks parked on the side of the highway and hear of trucking companies closing the doors.”

Rod again. So does some of this ring true in Australia, yes it does? We have the current HVNL review underway here and I have just got submission number 5 in late and started on 6 and at 7 or 8 hours per submission, with 8 due in total, who will pay me a week and half’s wages for my time? How many drivers will make the effort, or simply, don’t have the time available, let alone be able to meet the deadlines.

Now we have a Senate Enquiry, another chance to get heard, lets hope, but I also spent an hour or so responding to West Australias’ Transport Dept request for input into their road safety strategy. How many times do we have to tell them, yet do they listen? We must keep trying, but Wendy covers it with some down to earth words of wisdom. If only we could get the lawmakers to listen to her too. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

8th September 2019 Where do we sleep?

Goodaye all. There has been a number of crashes, as unfortunately happens each week and people die on our roads. One was a very well known and high profile truckie with immaculate equipment. None of us was there and until a proper crash investigation is done, I will not comment further on the specifics, but want to raise a couple of issues that may have some relevance.

How and where we park, where we can get good quality sleep and rest in trucks on the road, is both much restricted and then controlled by those who do not have to do it themselves. We must manage our fatigue, yet don’t have enough rest areas, we get big fines for breaking fatigue laws, yet those laws can allow you to drive when you should not and yet, expect you to sleep when not tired or not in a suitable place to get good sleep. If you were a cynical truckie, you would say, we can’t win.

The following is from a document I sent to the RTA and Transport Minister in 2003. It is one of a number, including a complete list of sites on the Pacific Highway. There was a time when I would get a call each month from yet another driver asking me what I was going to do about the lack of truck rest areas on the Pacific Highway. I rang, I wrote, I emailed and I did try, but here we are in 2019 and the problem is worse now. What more can I do?

NSW Truck Rest Areas.

Truck rest areas in NSW do not currently provide for all truckdrivers, to rest and manage their fatigue as well as would be possible, with improvements and better facilities required in some areas and additional truck rest areas in others. Shade is also critically lacking and without shade structures being provided, (because trees have not been planted and shade addressed sufficiently in the past), will take years to provide, even if trees were planted tomorrow.

Car rest areas have seen much improvement and should have included improved truck rest areas as well, to see best facilities provided for all, at least cost, but this has not been the case. Car rest areas are little used at night and are designed to keep trucks out, thereby increasing costs to road authorities in providing facilities for both car and truck drivers. Car drivers are more likely to park with trucks at night where they feel more secure, so car facilities are virtually all wasted at night.

Major Highways. Hume Highway facilities are not on a par with those in Victoria, though they too lack shade. The most recent additional truck rest area constructed at Bookham has provided a large area, but at a ridiculous incline that sees any driver fool enough to park there, fall to the floor if he should roll over. A disappointing result, for both those that payed for it and for those it was built for. There has been some improvement in others with holes filled in, but surfaces are still sometimes, dirt. The improvements to the southbound site just out of Sydney have seen less room available, but better facilities. Herringbone parking, whilst it can fit more trucks in, also provides more noise and less amenity. The biggest issue on the Hume is the continuing lack of action over a changeover facility required at Tarcutta, that will see improvements to safety for all on this road.

The Pacific Highway is the most in need of additional facilities. There were insufficient spots before it was opened up to b-doubles, particularly from Port Macquarie to the border and then on to Brisbane. Many drivers have been forced to drive on, because bays are too small and too few for the volume of traffic. Town by-passes are also removing more current sites, with no immediate replacement and the Kempsey by-pass (dependant on which route is chosen) will be a decisive factor, in both current and future facilities. There is a need to immediately provide additional truck rest areas and to plan for future traffic and to provide a changeover facility for future increases in traffic volume. The problem has existed since before being opened to b- doubles and is now critical. Drivers have seen no physical response and are then somewhat cynical of talk of better road safety, when nothing is seen to be done to address the rest area issue.

Newell Highway. Much has been done on the northern end with sealing and providing tables and chairs in a number of sites, though shade is an even more critical need in the heat here. New facilities at North Star in the north and Beckom, with another under construction at Gillenbah in the south, are much appreciated. The Pilliga though, from Narrabri to Coonabarabran has three sites within 3 kilometres at Coonabarabran and then nothing on the northbound side for 100 kilometres, with three small sites on the southbound side within the Pilliga, not providing sufficient capacity.

I have since tried hard to get something done and must say, have even been criticised for banging on about not enough rest areas by some. We now have better truck rest area guidelines and I contributed to the first ones more than 15 years ago and was not happy with the outcome, but could do no more at the time.

I asked for this update and it took a while, but I will specifically thank Mr Paul Retter, the past CEO of the National Transport Commission for pushing and getting the guidelines updated and yes, I contributed many hours in writing and on the phone to see them done. I was disappointed there was not more driver contribution, but we are better off now with guidelines available for those who are responsible to build truck rest areas.

Now I will continue to bang on for more rest areas, but will also seek guidelines for Stopping Bays so we do not get useless bits of bitumen you can stop on, but still only be 100 centimetres from 100 kph traffic. Wire rope barriers are good to stop you hitting trees, but how can you pull up for any reason, change a tyre, get a repair done or God forbid, need a Powernap, yet have nowhere safe to do it?

What must we do to get safe places to sleep? How many more drivers will die, till we have suitable and sufficient truck rest areas in Australia? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

1st September 2019 Happy Fathers Day.

Goodaye all and Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads. I hope you either spent time with and or heard from your children. It is one of the biggest downsides of this job, the life we lead away from our families and then, when we get to see them, we are not needed, because they have learnt to live without us. Many families spend time apart, but there are few jobs that both take us away and then tear our lives apart, from those we love.

I had hoped to catch up with my first boss from over 40 years ago on my last trip. When I rang, he was heading south down the centre and I was heading north up the coast. We thought maybe on the way home for each. He wanted to get home in one day and I had all the Mt Isa freight on and work was waiting for me and the freight to get that driver on his way. We did speak on the phone and wave as we passed each other nearing Dubbo.

In one of the conversations, interrupted by our marvellous phone signal strength issues, he asked how many children I have. When I said seven, he said, “What did you say” and I said, “seven” and he said, “That was what I thought you said, so you must have got home sometimes.” “Yes, my wife used to miss me while I was gone, but now she doesn’t want me there at all.”

It is not that bad, nor is it something that makes me happy for the job I have and the life I lead. We all have choices and sometimes we take a path and it is hard to change it later. Even if I wanted to, I simply can’t take a year off and reskill or get another job or profession. I will be honest, that with the time I have put into TRUCKRIGHT and my road safety hobby, I would also then be walking away from what has kept me sane and focused on not thinking about what I could be doing, with my family.

Now it is too late and I am yet to find the way to make it better. I still have a dream of having a truck and trailer on the road, working part time and doing my road safety with more time for family. But I will retire with little more than the thanks of the few drivers who recognise my efforts. It is not about, woe is me, or that anyone held a gun to my head to put the time in, it is what it is and I will keep trying to find the solution, to find my mentor with lots of money who loves trucks.

I have just sat and watched a movie with my daughter and it has made me a bit thoughtful, maybe even a bit maudlin and I hope you don’t take it too much as a whinge, as simply my thoughts at the moment. I wish I could find a way to solve all the industries problems, my own and my childrens’ as well, but nothing will change if everybody waits for it to happen and does nothing themselves.
I will plan to be more upbeat next week. But there is more!

I have just finished my reply to issue paper 4, of the NTC Heavy Vehicle National Law Review, Safe People and Practises. The following is my last question response.

Question 11: How can the future HVNL nurture a culture that places a high level of importance on safety?
Some of this is covered in the answer above, some of it will depend on the outcome of this review and whether drivers are given the chance to really and truly contribute. We are the ones on the road, we are the ones who have to live the life, from car drivers brake checking us because they have seen a bad crash blamed on trucks on television. We are the ones whose lives are risked by the stupidity of car drivers who will risk our lives and theirs to save 5 seconds on a trip.

In responding to Safe People and Practises, it must be said that even if we prevented every crash where a truck was at fault, we would only make a small impact on the road toll, yet if we prevented every crash involving a truck but caused by a car driver, we would make a big impact. We would save truckies lives, save the lives of many motorists and prevent many more injuries. I am not saying we don’t need to do more, we do and I will acknowledge the NHVR, in now getting behind such efforts to show some of these issues and aiming to educate the public, but it has been there for so long and ignored by all bar a few for years. Rest areas are still insufficient, the number of caravans putting more pressure on these facilities and the ridiculous laws and penalties issued to safe, fit and awake drivers who have managed their fatigue, only to be told, it is not legal, has possibly done more to kill drivers and destroy their lives and families for many years.

I still believe many drivers are still not aware of the review and many others have complained it is too onerous to contribute. I welcome the recent announcement of easy access through the ATA and Big Rigs and hope this will encourage more drivers to contribute. Thank You, Rod Hannifey.

And now, having spent the time to read and write this submission, I had difficulty submitting it through the website. Yes, submissions were due to close Friday, but I have better things to do than fight with a website. I have submitted it direct via email and with only 4 submissions on Safe People and Safe Practises, would you say it has been well received? Not on your life. How much money are we paying for this review and if only 4 people have responded, are we getting value for that money? I don’t think so. Safe travelling, Rod Hannifey.