29th March 2020 A viral time.

Goodaye all. Life on the road was never as good as it has been portrayed. Now whilst many truckies are still working to keep the wheels of industry turning, we have been thrown out the door with some issues. I recognise the issues with the virus and social distancing, but the closure of showers and every roadhouse eating area, must be seen to have been short sighted for those of us who live on the road. It is an issue with keeping showers clean, but not impossible, though again, we have to do our part. Some sites have made an effort and we have to recognise that and tell them, it won’t hurt you to say thanks, will it? And then we may well get better outcomes.

I did stop for a shower at one place during the week and will NEVER go there again. It is a company branded site and the showers were a disgrace, looking like they haven’t been cleaned in weeks with mould growing in the corners. I will be contacting the parent company after finishing this.

We need to be able to get out of the truck to sit down and eat. We need good healthy food and not only will eating take-away for weeks on end not help, we simply don’t have access to supermarkets in a b-double. I can only park with-in co-ee of two places on the Newell Highway from Melbourne to Brisbane. Many blokes are self-sufficient, some do their own cooking, but not all have the time,or the capacity within their truck to do so. I carry milk and cereals, some tinned meals etc, but we all need to be able to sit down and eat, let alone have a break out of the truck.

I believe the union, Glen Sterle and others, including members of the National Road Freighters Assoc, have been pushing for change and my understanding, having just spent an hour on the phone for the monthly NRFA board meeting hook-up, there should be an announcement allowing us a place to eat, due this week. We all recognise many have lost their jobs, there are bigger issues than just us, all we are asking is for some recognition of needs of living on the road.

I do hope with the less traffic on the road, there will be less crashes and perhaps, if we all then just thought a bit and rushed a bit less, we may even save some lives.

I have to do a few other things now before leaving for Melbourne, one of which is to contact the fuel chain responsible for that roadhouse and I will let you know what response I get. Please be safe, please do what you can to help others and I will do my best to help my fellow road travellers. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

22nd March 2020 Monash Driving Health.

Goodaye all. I drove out to Warren late Sunday, unloaded there early, back into Dubbo for some tyres then off to load at Manildra, (had a discussion about load restraint curtains and why we have them) nearly making it into Melbourne. Seven hour break, then a drop out to the new WW DC at Lyndhurst (and the truck GPS said it did not exist so have passed this on to them along with a short list of other indiscretions), back into Melbourne to deliver the balance of the load, drop trailers and drop truck off for a new steering box. Had a leak at the bottom seal, so had to be fixed and seemed to be affecting steer tyre wear.

Plan to have it back by lunchtime the next day, so having seen a Facebook comment on the “Driving Health” study being done by Monash University, sent an email and then arranged an interview for the next morning. A three part study, looking initially at insurance claims to confirm what we all know, truck driving can be hazardous to your health, pity we could not educate others and reduce this substantially. Off my soapbox now. Then interviewing drivers, family and employers to get the detail and background to how the job affects us, then lastly, looking to:
“Our objective is to develop interventions that, upon completion of the study, can be implemented by employers, regulators, drivers and others in the sector.”

So did my hour plus interview, was told I had raised some things not yet raised by others and hope to see some value down the track to help us all. I did give it a plug on “Nightshift” and am doing the same here. You can go to med-IWHGroup@monash.edu or (03) 9903 0444. Driving Health Study.

We all know truckies don’t get to the doctor and how hard it is to get anywhere near them in a truck when working, let alone a chemist or any other real help, so I would encourage any of you who either, have had a problem that was difficult to solve because o the job, or who know of others who have suffered, but may be able to offer an insight. It is hard on our families, we are never there, it can lead to isolation and in some depression and who do you turn to?

If you have a really good mate, they might be able to help and since we lost TRANSHELP, where or who to you go to now, to talk to someone with any industry understanding? There is Lifeline and Beyond Blue and they help many, but perhaps the fact that unless those we talk to have some job empathy, can they help as much as needed. We are getting into deep territory here and I am no expert, but I know of drivers who have had others commit suicide into their trucks, who have come on or been involved with a road crash where someone died and none of us go to work to be involved, directly or otherwise, but once there, you can’t just walk away and forget about it.

Have you needed help and got it from your local doctor, your boss or a friend? But if not, have you suffered in silence to the point it has affected your life and or that of your family. It is something rarely discussed and this study and your contribution may help another driver in the long term, more than you will ever know. Please give it some thought and participate if you can.

Back to trucks. Got the truck back later than planned, so late for the wheel alignment, but delivered truck and trailers and got them back after lunch the next day. Drives were both out, cambered the steer and will see how that goes. Off back to Melbourne this afternoon with a load of wool for a change and loading out some chemical and highly secret stuff made of paper and in high demand at the moment. Don’t want to get hijacked, so Mums’ the word. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

15th March 2020. Mr Positive.

Goodaye all. I hope many of you saw the link/video “Mr Positive” that I shared on Facebook and Twitter. You can find it at http://www.truckingnation.com.au Chris Harmer is Mr Positive and he was interviewed by Stephen and the intro was done by Sarah, both from Whiteline Television. I have known Chris for many years, back when he and I lived in Brisbane and worked for Finemores.

I worked in the container park for 13 years after starting as a courier driver, then moved into tankers, moving to Goondiwindi to carry Ampol fuel from Brisbane to Dubbo. Chris was in car carriers, then moved into the office and then on the road for tankers. I have an old photo of the two of us at Avenal Roadhouse in two Finemores Volvos, both coming out of Melbourne.

We passed on the road and sort of kept in touch as I moved to Dubbo and then Chris left Finemores and started working for local companies in Wagga Wagga and we would chat on the phone at night when he was on the road. Chris is a very well liked and popular driver with those he knows, sometimes you have to que up to talk to him on the phone.

I think our longest conversation on the phone was well over three hours, each discussing our problems and listening to the other with his. Chris was a fan and supporter of my efforts and often told me not to give up if I had a bad week or could not achieve what I wanted to. When you have a friend that you can discuss your dreams and your problems with, it can help lessen the burden, provide another view and simply, make the night and the drive, much shorter.

Depending on where he was going and when, we might speak three times one week and then not for the next. Very occasionally, we would pass on the road, a couple of times we met up in Melbourne, but mostly we talked on the phone at night when on the road.

I am missing his voice and contact, as his license was revoked after what they initially thought was a stroke, but was then diagnosed as serious brain cancer, after two operations to remove tumours, he was told he may only have 12 to 18 months to live. Chris lives for his family, wife and children, though two of his kids have a serious affliction which means they will require life long care.

He loves trucks and whilst it has helped him look after his family, it has not always gone easily. As with all jobs, but more with interstate truck driving, you are on the road and you’re often a long way from the family at home. This has made it hard on his wife, particularly with the children, but Chris has said often, that Burkinshaws were the best employer and the owner has not only helped when needed, he has really tried to do his best to help Chris when family situations needed him home.

I am hoping to attend the benefit day, Chris has invited me and I hope you might watch the video, consider giving something to the go fund me page which Melanie Burkinshaw set up, as without a truck license, Chris and his family now have no fulltime job and he is facing a short time left to live.

Chris says some have defeated his condition, he has done chemo and is still positive as per the video and I truly hope he can beat this, but if he can’t, he and his family will need some help. None of us know when our time is up, life is but a game and we can only play till it is over and do the best we can. I wish I could do more myself, but if I can get someone who is in a better position to help, then I will have done something small to help Chris and his family. Share the video, help if you can and recognise that Chris did like anyone else would, feel angry at first, but I applaud his acceptance, recognise his belief in his God and church and wish him all the best. I thank him for all his time, his listening and support and keeping me keen and enthused.

Chris I hope you beat this, but either way, am glad I have had you as a friend. Good friends are hard to find and friends like Chris are rare indeed. All the best mate. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

8th March 2020

Goodaye all. A short week-end last week and a big week on the road this week. A spot on ABC Overnights Wednesday morning with Trevor Chappell about road rules went well with many callers and I have suggested a spot on rest areas for the future.

Calls back from TMR and RMS re the alignment of roadside signs that blind us with our own lights because they are incorrectly placed. Both will be doing some fixing, thanks, but many others wrongly aligned and need to be fixed.

A call back from Vicroads on two issues and I have just emailed a detailed outline of the issues and hope to get a reply soon.

I did contact both TMR and RMS re green reflector marking of informal bays, nothing from TMR yet and RMS have issued new guidelines which speak of a state wide rollout. This would be a major improvement and would immediately help fill some gaps for us. We still need many more rest areas and spaces, but this could be a good step forward.

Comments from drivers, others ringing with issues and seeking help still coming from “Nightshift” listeners is all good and emails from others who read my column in Owner Driver keep me busy. I can’t always help, but will do my best to do so where and when I can.
How do we get other drivers involved? Only one call to anyone might get a response, but 5 callers will do more and 20 will see action, more often than not. Yet many drivers want things fixed, changed or improved, but won’t make one call or send one email. Our HVNL review, the Senate Inquiry and all the previous industry calls for contributions and comment, went largely unnoticed with few responses. So, when those asking see that, it is more likely they will then simply say, no one cares, we will just do whatever we think best. Unfortunately, more often than not, it is their view that gets used to change things, we get shafted and then everyone complains about the change or lack thereof.

I would like to think the associations were there more for the drivers, yes I could say without drivers, there would be no transport business, but in many ways that applies to each of the myriad other roles, that come together in transport. We just happen to be the most at risk, responsible for all on the road, accountable to everyone else and yet, still mostly unrepresented in most industry forums and groups. We tried the drivers club and many had said they would join, some did, but that was all they did and it of course failed. I will keep trying, but it is hard and lonely doing it mostly on your own. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.