28th June 2020 A roadtrain to Coober Pedy.

Goodaye all. For a change, I am writing this a bit early. I am sitting in a ute outside a mine site whilst my truck and roadtrain trailers are unloaded. We all know everyone wants you to comply with all their rules, have all your inductions in place and that is fine when you have plenty of time to set it up. But that does not always happen, does it?

Sunrise at the rest area north of Glendambo. We stopped here some months ago and did filming for the soon to be released Roadtrain and Caravan video.

This was just such a striking sky, I had to get a photo.

This is one of the two five trailer ABB quin setups that I saw operate into the mine.

Now of course, I normally do b-double tautliners, mainly Melbourne/Brisbane and a roadtrain to Coober Pedy is a change. I did drive my first roadtrain in Western Queensland when I was 16 and I can’t have done too bad, as the boss said wake me up when we get to the next town, which was some hours away. The next day we had both slept and when I woke first, I got going again and he never clipped me over the ear then either.

Some years ago, following a comment from a number of drivers about the change in attitude of many new drivers, some said that the only place the old mateship and respect still existed, was on the Perth and Darwin runs. I rang David Simon and asked him about doing a trip to look at the truth of that and he agreed. His company has a driver training program, a 90 k speedlimit and he also wanted me to look at how that worked from the outside.

Some years prior to this, I had been at an ATA Convention in Canberra and had proposed a trip up and down the Pacific Highway, specifically to respond to comments from some drivers that there was some friction between the old hands on the Pacific and the fact that b-doubles were now allowed there and it seems, some weren’t happy.

There were even some reports that drivers in doubles had been abused and nearly run off the road. When I raised this at the convention, a couple asked why should I be supported to do such a trip and whilst it was a logical extension for me following my first two Highway Audit trips, it seems not all agreed. However, I had to put my case and see what I could arrange. I spoke with David Simon and he agreed to set up a trip in one of his trucks for me.

We arranged to do press with local papers and media on the way south and Barry Whitney from Owner Driver followed in his car and we did some interviews and stories, then we had the RTA set up two people from different sections, for the trip north. The first half was Justin Maguire to the Gold Coast where he caught a plane, then a lady from the Pacific Alliance and she was very much interested in the issue of Jake Brake noise and some complaints which had been received.

To start the trip, I flew to Brisbane, went out and picked up the truck at David’s depot, was test driven round the block and given instruction on their rules and procedures. Overall the trip went well and we were well received, got good support and follow up stories from all we spoke with, including Police and did some auditing of rest areas, along with speaking to drivers wherever we stopped at roadhouses.

I think I made a good impression with all I spoke with and whilst we are still short of rest areas on the Pacific Highway, the roadworks have made it a much quicker trip and a much safer road for all who travel it. The newspapers we spoke with (and some journos spent either a short time in the truck or interviewed me in it at the roadside) were all positive and some even used the Truckies Top Ten Tips (for sharing the road with trucks) in their stories. Barry covered the trip and my column did as well. We still need more rest areas, even now and from where I sit, the losses are greater than the gains of a few new truck bays.   

For the Darwin trip, David set it up for me to be picked up in Dubbo by one of this trucks and travel to Brisbane, where I had a meal and a kip whilst the trailers were all loaded. Three trucks left with single trailers for Toowoomba with myself in one, my partner for the trip in another and a local bloke with the third. It was on dark when we got to the yard in Toowoomba and my partner, (who had thought I was a journalist) said, hook up the dolly and then put it under his trailer as the dog. The truck I had, being a local one, did not have any hook up lights, but I got the dolly hooked up then put it under the dog, pulled my truck out and he then returned to hook up the Darwin truck. I think that allayed some of his fears about me and we got on well for the whole trip.

This gent had been with Simons and doing Darwin for sometime and had a cooker and once we left Augathella after having breakfast and then later hooking up the third trailer, he cooked nearly all the meals and then I bought all the food for the return trip. He did well and whilst I did come up with a better solution than cooking on the back of the prime mover, it was early on the way up he said, “You won’t be able to get a coffee and a meal up here like you can on the Newell” and he was of course, absolutely right. You can’t even park a triple to go to one of the few toilets, for it seems hundreds of kilometres.

At a rest area on the way home from Darwin.

I will make this a two part story and so will be back next week with the exiting completion of my first Darwin and triple trek. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

20th June 2020

Goodaye all. I have had an interesting week, some nice comments from drivers on the UHF and in person, a good Wednesday morning on Nightshift discussing logbooks and taking calls, an different work week, some mistakes by others,  meaning unloading and then reloading product for fun and enjoyment and off tomorrow for something completely different.

I am getting more and more frustrated with roads and how they are fixed, who really controls the work and allocation and why does it look to many of us, as all arse about. In discussing this with a work colleague, he nominated the coroner as being very influential in certain road changes. Has anyone seen this before and do you agree or disagree and why? Do we then need to get the coroners into trucks?

Years ago a mate sent me a copy of a coroners report on a major truck crash. Some of the questions raised, showed a lack of understanding of trucks by the coroner and yet there was serious disregard of what truck drivers and operators had to say, on how a road and its problems had been highlighted to authorities who had failed to act. At that time, I thought those involved working on the road, the trucks and owners, had acted in good faith to report a problem, the road authority virtually ignored them and then there was a crash involving a death.

The road authority was held partly responsible and then went and changed the law, so they could not be held responsible in the future. How does that work?

Why do we now have AB Triples running the Newell Highway when they can’t run the Hume and lets build a heap of overtaking lanes on long straight sections of road instead of twisting bits and then lets ignore the big hills and terrain in the Pilliga and from Tooraweenah.

Last week travelling from Duaringa to Rockhampton, the same thing, let’s build a major widening of the road just before we come to a curving twisting bottleneck, where most trucks going to the mines are roadtrains and bigger, where the hazards and delays to all traffic in this section will be 10 times worse than the bit of road we are widening. Why not fix the bottleneck first and then widen the road?

It is like the rest areas. Travelled the Golden Highway, Dubbo to Newcastle and much work being done. This was the first road on which I did a highway audit many years ago and I thank Maurice Finemore, my boss at the time, for helping me achieve it. I had six shire engineers travel their section of the road from Singleton outbound to Dubbo and gave each a list of the issues in their section made up over the previous trips.  And within two years, everything from signs too close to the road, culverts too close and bumps etc, was improved and or fixed with the exception of one culvert issue and two major projects, one a major realignment and another a bridge replacement. These were done within five years and there is more work to do now.

Some of the sections are improving and there has been some new rest areas, but I had asked for input and pushed for green reflector bays (and the number of them had grown slowly as and when possible to mark them). Yet we had no request for input, some bays too close and then nothing leaving large gaps and so, I rang and have listed a couple of issues and asked to be contacted for further comments to be considered.

Lastly got informed of a survey on a number of road safety issues. Speeding in school zones and roadworks. I could not in good conscience complete the surveys as they were framed to blame, not to ask why. I would hope no one who has ever had children, would ever speed in a school zone. But I want to be able to explain why I consider some roadworks to be wrongly signed for the safety of all on the road, not just the roadworkers and why I believe that just because some one thinks it is a good idea to leave speedlimits reduced when there is no work on the road at all, some will then ignore what may well be suitable limits at times when workers are working.

We need good roads, we need them fixed and repaired properly and we need those doing the work to be safe, absolutely. But those using the road need to be involved, not just told, slow down. I have written to the authors of the survey, offering comment, completed another survey that they may well say was not for me to contribute to and will hope to see more of us get a chance to contribute to improve road safety, not just answer surveys that to my mind, do not ask the right questions.  Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

14th June 2020

Goodaye all. A short week and a visit to hospital Wednesday afternoon to check something, which has led to a week-end home so I can go for an ultrasound Monday morning and then a Trucksafe medical after and hopefully then to work. In April loading at a place in Melbourne where you had to stand in your cage at the back of the trailers, I said I will be using ropes, along with my load restraint curtains if you are happy with that? Up to you mate, thanks.

Now having seen the damage caused by some cowboys that swing your straps into the roof and the freight when there is not much room over the freight, I know what needs additional restraint and am happy to use it, but if I can see and watch the loading and make sure they don’t do stupid stuff and the freight is acceptable and will stand up, then I am confident my gates, ropes and curtains will do the job and legally.

When the front sections were done and we were about to move the curtains, the bloke said, I can’t throw a rope, you’ll have to do it. Which is normally fine, as mostly you can throw over the pallet in front as you go when the freight is tall and there is not much room left above it. Once the section is full, it is a damn sight harder and not being allowed out during the loading, meant I had a hard time and with perhaps a bit too much effort, swung hard on the fourth attempt to try and force it throughand thought, bugger that hurt. So I changed to my left hand and eventually got loaded, had a sore right shoulder, but then hooked up the trailers and headed off. It was bit sore the following day, but nothing serious, I thought.

Three weeks ago sitting at the BP at Clermont having tea, I looked at my right arm and thought, MMM my morning push ups are working well, what a muscle, but then looked at the other side and thought, that’s not even. More MMMMM and the muscle bit seemed to move about. Didn’t get home for another week and showed my son who has been into body building a bit and he said, looks like you might have torn a tendon.

End result, though I have not had any real pain and the shoulder works fine, I went to the hospital for a qualified answer and whilst still not sure, now have to get the ultrasound Monday. We will see what happens. Worked local Thursday/ Friday, got a service done and started a bit of sanding for some paint touch up Monday and arranged my Trucksafe Medical too.

Some of you may be aware, Big Rigs magazine will be folding as part of the closure of many regional papers, they were in the Queensland times offices in Ipswich and are a relation and were told, you will be closing. Sorry to see another industry paper go, Trucking Life the other most recent loss. James the editor has been a good supporter and rang me Friday afternoon for an interview for the last edition. Big Rigs was fortnightly and was available in some of the servos where Owner Driver was not. It seemed to have a regular group of readers and the last few editors had made some changes that took it from just a social sheet to containing some good info.

NTI have just released their report into truck crashes. It had gone to two yearly, but has been released early this year. It of course only covers the vehicles NTI insure, not the whole of the industry and I do believe you can’t change what you don’t understand. Yes, when there is a crash, there is a cause and often though, more than one. But on the side of the road in the middle of carnage and suffering, the bump down the road or the irregularity in the road surface just up the road are not the most important factors at the time, yet could have been contributing factors and will often be missed or completely ignored. For that reason, I do support proper crash investigations to get all the facts, not just the obvious ones and then maybe we can do more to prevent them. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

7th June 2020 Home, away again.

Goodaye all. I am currently on my 24 hour plus break at the BP Truckstop Duaringa, between Emerald and Rockhampton. A fairly busy week with many changes along the way. Thursday, “Should I rush, no, then, plans have changed, hurry up. Then again, a big (you are loading for Emerald surprise) so now plenty of time again. Then, me, hang on, if I don’t get unloaded Saturday, to be perfectly legal I can’t unload Sunday with the receiving hours, so I better get my finger out.

Damn green reflectors would not stick on in the morning cold (and I missed a terrific photo with the brilliant full moon descending over the TIV, should of gone back straight away!!!) but got unloaded in good time, then decided to have my 24 hour break here. Not the most glamorous of places, but can fuel, get feed, have shower etc and plenty of parking so can be well out of the way of others.

Had some cool nights during the week with the doona on, last night got warm here and heard another bloke hit his Icepack so thought, me too. Strange noise so turned it off and this morning found a stone jammed in the side grille. Took some swearing, but luckily no finger or hand damage to crack a couple of bits off and then flick it out. Thanks to my brother in law (who stopped in to say Goodaye on his break) for the help.

Rearranged the tool boxes, turned all my hand winches so they have the teeth on the inside when attached. With the teeth on the outside, due to a low turntable height, they can rip into your guards and I still have the original ones since new, 9 years old next month on the truck and 12 years on the trailer. Bought a lighter so I could fix the end of some straps, do audiobooks and this and next to refit the grille screen that the pint didn’t dry on last week end away.

Getting a few good photos here, the A B-triple combination very popular. Mine too dirty, so will clean the floors and mats etc, catch up on reading and my diary and set up to go into Rocky tonight for pick up in the morning. Got a couple more calls on the way up saying “Are you lost or what are you doing up here, but they enjoy the spot on the radio. Thanks to all who do, for listening.

Our roads? Last week-end away I rang the TMT Road Report number 131940. After much frustration with the voice service which cannot seem to understand with the higher noise of a truck, like many phone voice services, I was eventually put through to a bloke in Maroochydore, who of course knows little of Central Qld. I complained about the service and the frustration of asking for an operator, only to be given a list of problems in Townsville, then detailed some issues on the Gregory Highway.

Seeing I was heading that way again, I sought Googles help to access TMR Emerald, so it took me to the corporate switchboard. Some more round and round, but eventually I got onto a fellow who took my complaints with the service seriously. Few call now and far less will, if the system simply does not understand what you want and you get messed around for 5 minutes trying to get to talk to someone. Then if they aren’t truck friendly, they may not understand the issue.

I was then passed onto the Rockhampton office, for this area and again, detailed the issues which it seemed so far, mate from the beach had not passed on. Both these people were professional and interested and I do hope we will get somethings improved, including not leaving 60 zones up when no pone and no work actually happening on the highway.

Another interesting chat with TMR re work at Yelarbon. Been trying to get 400 metres fixed for five years now. They have done a patch 200m away and not the problem bit. That call was not as friendly, though I recognise it is not the fault of the person on the other end, but 5 years and then do a bit 200m away and then move off elsewhere. I did thank them for the really bad, 2.3G hit at 13.2 k south of Yelarbon just before the northbound parking spot.

Then RMS, again started well, calling Rod to go through your list. That’s good, thanks. First item, severely subsided culvert, worse in the last month all of a sudden, we might get to that in September. I don’t think that is good enough, it is dangerous and of a truck has a crash because of it, I will tell then you knew and did nothing. (On my way north later that week Rough Surface and Reduce speed signs were being put up and I hope an early repair will follow).

Next issue the closing of Tomingley Rest area, will be closed till June as it is a hazard during toilet construction. To that I say “Poppycock”, though not to her, but a driver expecting it open will be stuck on the side of the road for 7 hours because of the Safetcam site immediately after and I have raised this before. She is looking into it and so we did not progress any further on the long list. But a thank you for the repair being done on Doctors Creek Bridge in Narrabri, one I have complained about and they have had a few goes at patching, was being done seriously late last week.

So much time trying to get roads fixed, much frustration, but some action, though much further effort required. I hope many of you may have read the story in Owner Driver about road funding and how big the backlog is. We all know and have to deal with it. It is about time our workplace was much safer. You and I can do so much, but the authorities must do much more in roadwork and help educate new drivers about sharing then road with trucks and so far, I would fail them on both. What score would you give them out of ten? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.