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.