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.

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