26th July 2020 National Freight Guidelines.

Goodaye all. I do welcome some high level discussions that aim to simplify and streamline border crossings for trucks. It would have been nice if we had been thought of more at the start and recognised for the service we provide to all Australians. Of course, the way things are going, it may be too little and or too late for those who have lost hours waiting in ques to get there and deliver the freight needed for peoples’ lives to continue.

This of course, completely ignores the cost in time and money, transport companies have wasted, chasing details and then having to keep doing so as it kept changing, aiming to comply with differing requirements for each state. You would think we lived in Europe and in different countries, instead of just different states of Australia!

Update from email just now, the new guidelines from the Australian Government, Protocol for Domestic Border Controls – Freight Movements have just been released and look to provide some basis for a national and co-ordinated set of guidelines for all states to hopefully agree to and implement. Let’s see?

I was asked by a journalist about how truckies could be a problem, travelling from state to state as many of us do. Yes, there is a risk, as in every part of life, but of all the essential services, we are the most isolated and least involved with close contact with others. Health workers caring for those in need must be close, many others work in closed offices (unless they can work from home) but for those in retail and other services, they often deal with people close up.

Yes we have to deal with those where we load and unload, but more often than not, it is outside and in the open or at least, definitely not, in confined spaces as such. Once that is done, we are alone and on the road, yet again. Yes we need fuel and food, but again, one of the problems we have, is you simply can’t park your b-double anywhere within cooee of a supermarket most of the time, so not only is it harder and more costly to obtain food and live on the road, it is hard to do so healthily.

We too have to comply and use common sense in our dealings. We need to consider the contact we have and minimise the close contact where and when we can. Some have said we should be tested and I have been temperature tested at some sites and have no problem with this, but being held at a border while we wait for testing, could see many drivers left without food or supplies and so far, I have not seen or heard of any suggestion to offer testing at roadhouses, even for those who want to check.

I took part in a phone hook up Monday towards improving driver health, this being done by OzHelp and funded by NHVR, First discussion was about sleep, what problems there are in getting good quality sleep, what can be done etc. It went for over an hour and notes were taken and a list of issues and suggestions tabled. There will be more such discussions and I have followed up with some rest area info.

Last week-end I also chased two well apart but current informal and dirt bays that truckies use to try and get access to supermarkets. I got one reply, have again responded asking for further info and support, citing our issues and why such sites are so valuable and needed by us.

The Senate Inquiry took further oral submissions in Brisbane Friday and whilst I could not listen in, I do aim to find the time to hear what was said by those who took the time and made the effort to contribute. I am told you can still make a written submission and that there will be further chances for oral in person submissions, in other states. If you do not contribute and tell the authorities what is wrong, how will they know what is needed to fix anything?

I am still trying to get a culvert fixed 20k south of Forbes after a number of emails. They put up “Rough Surface” signs, so at least someone else knows it could hurt, I said that is not enough. They said they would do a patch, that did not fix it either and so I asked again to have it fixed as I believed it was a road hazard. Initially I was told it could not be fixed till September. Any of you know of the bump and believe it warrants urgent repair, next time you hit it, call 131700 and put in a complaint, maybe with a few more, we can get it fixed. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

19th July 2020 Borders and Roads.

Goodaye all. Biggest issues of the week, delays at the border into NSW at Albury, seemingly just for fun and our roads. Why trucks were sent into Grass Tree parking bay for fun coming northbound out of Melbourne when we were separated from cars and allowed to remain on the highway at Beveridge (though I believe this was changed later) and then qued with all the cars and then let through after queuing for no reason at Albury, seemed to fly in the face of all the comments that trucks would not be unduly delayed.

Half an hour or more qued with all the cars, to then be simply let through, seemed to simply be bad traffic management. I have spoken with the ATA and hope they will have had some more access to and weight, with the authorities. If they want to stop us or inspect some, then do so if you must, but don’t hold every truck up for nothing and then let them through.

Surely we have enough trouble with having all the states wanting to be different, must they play games and simply keep this up instead of at the very least, agreeing on one type or set of forms for border crossings. Yes it came hard and fast, this infection, yes they made mistakes as we do, but it is not hard to work out surely.

One of the things I have a problem with is where our roads money goes. Do we get good value from it and whilst you and I must comply to the absolute letter of the law, who holds large corporations to account for the roads and the failures. The new overtaking lane south of Peak Hill failed within two weeks. We did not damage it by driving over it, it damaged our trucks by failing, yet will we be expected to pay for it again and then will they want more money from us for “damaging” this bit of “road”.

No one will be foolish enough to either guarantee or deny, that all the money we pay for the use of and supposed wear and tear caused by trucks, goes into the roads. How much or what percentage does, we will probably never know, but much is siphoned off into consolidated revenue. Now that may be for important things like hospitals and schools, but that is not what it is intended for, nor are we told, charged for.

We are a service industry, yes a few companies even make a profit, but every cost to us increases the cost of transport to those outside of capital cities where they have much better roads and simply it seems, few recognise what roll transport plays in the life of all Australians, particularly those away from major centres.

Until two things happen, we, those who use the roads for work and to deliver that service to all Australians, will be short changed, overcharged and still have to travel on roads that risk our lives. We will never have, nor do I expect, perfect smooth roads everywhere. I have said before and will again, we have a large country and a small population, but we must get good value, we must get the best roads we can afford and we must all be able to travel on them as safely as possible. Do You Agree???

So why must I spend hours every week making lists of road failures, ringing and emailing road authorities asking them to fix things? Perhaps some think they are the only people I ring and take offence, none is intended from me. Perhaps they think I have no right to complain. Perhaps they think their road crews know better than those of us who have to drive on these roads day after day when they are not up to standard, where failures risk our lives, destroy our vehicles, damage our bodies and increase our risk and our fatigue, again when they don’t need rest areas, so they are not important enough to answer questions on either.

Am I pissed off, you bet. Five years asking for one section south of Yelarbon to be fixed, major failures near roadworks where millions was wasted and is now being done again south of Aratula, rest areas lost everywhere, made worse when told will be returned to previous at Warrill View and culverts on the Newell south of Forbes that try to tear the steer axle out of the truck, to be told in might be fixed months away.

Again, I offer any who wish to dispute my claims to show me I am wrong, to tell me they understand or care and have done something about it. Come for a trip and I will change your views.

The two things we need? To recognise the road as our workplace and to have a National Road Standard, agreed to by all and mandated that it must be maintained and that there be value for the money spent, not millions in profits for those who do the work, but don’t have to LIVE ON THE ROAD.

Ending on a positive note, two new videos, Caravans and Roadtrains and Part Two Facilities released this week. You can view them here Part 1 – https://vimeo.com/403558192

Part 2 – https://vimeo.com/406836007 or at http://www.sharetheroad.net.au If you agree with the content, please share them with your friends and contacts. If we even prevent one crash and maybe even save a life, it will have cost you nothing more than a minute of your time, to help achieve such a marvellous outcome. Thanks and Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

12th July 2020 Passengers and meetings.

Goodaye all. Well the border issues have made a big week more worrysome, yet in the end did not cause any of the drama it seemed would occur. However it seems, not only can they not give thought first and then put out something so people can deal with it, they must put out something with big gaps, forgetting certain people and how they live and operate on the road. Then they change it every day, just to make it bloody near impossible to know what the hell you have to do and then for good measure, let’s make it different for each state!

I do understand from where I sit, we are all under enormous pressure to fix this today, but a bit of thought and consultation will often give a better outcome. Please talk to us and our associations first. I was involved in a Zoom meeting with the NHVR and some owner drivers and all agreed the NHVR website which has compiled all the border issues and requirements in one place was well done and hopefully will help many. If in doubt, check the NHVR site and if you find a further problem, please let them know.

I raised some issues, one driver had to wait three hours to get a logbook, so getting them could be improved, particularly in Brisbane and Sydney when you are in a truck. COR still fails to get to any others than the driver who is still seemingly the only one swinging and being hit, at the end of the chain.

I had the Director, Transport Economic Reform, Land Transport Market Reform Branch, Infrastructure Investment Division, Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities do a trip with me over three days. He drove to Dubbo, we left in the TIV Sunday and travelled to Toowoomba where he went to a motel late that night. I unloaded Monday morning and then we travelled down the Toowoomba bypass, him having read my extensive and detailed list of things I was not happy about (and which TMR have all but ignored) into Brisbane. There I showed him how we can get stuffed about when freight is not yet available for pick up, not sure who I can blame, we just had to wait for a few hours. We then reloaded and bounced our way out the Cunningham Highway and on to Narrabri, a motel for him and Hotel Kenworth for me, before completing the trip back to Dubbo Tuesday.

There has been much discussion about how we pay for roads, the fact that we need a better way to do so and there has been even more concern from the transport industry how we will fare. This problem is not limited to Australia, with the US having had to do last minute funding for their roads over the last few years and also looking to new ways to pay for their extensive highway network.

The industry has been arguing that how we pay now, via rego and fuel, particularly that obviously the more fuel you use, the more tax you pay, covers user pays to some extent. Others disagree. My view is that the biggest problem is that what we pay is not used only for roads, that we are not damaging the roads as is often used against us, that we provide a transport service to all Australians and that until we have better roads and the money charged to us for using them, actually goes to make us safe on those roads, then we won’t be happy to pay even higher possible charges.

It is the roads that damage the trucks, the drivers and then the roads. If they are smooth, imperfections and failures are repaired quickly and to a high standard, then we are safe in our workplace and we will pay for a good safe road. Have you ever heard the phrase, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This is our roads and until they are built and repaired up to a standard, then we will continue to suffer damage to trucks, drivers and the roads themselves.

We do have a large country and a small population, so we cannot have perfect roads everywhere. But who ensures we get good value for our roads. Yes we are getting work done on the Newell, which has waited a long time for serious funding, yet even with the new overtaking lanes, we have not been consulted, many are on long flat stretches of road where we could overtake anyway, instead of sections where car drivers get frustrated and then do something stupid, risking our lives and theirs. In the Pilliga they are building one not far south from the biggest incline, WHY? The one just completed south of Peak Hill has been completed less that a month and has failed badly already.

We did not break it, so why should we pay for it to be fixed again and what life will it have if it doesn’t last one month? I have also contacted RMS re the section south from Boggabilla, asking will the informal rest areas be retained. I complained when they “improved” (but made worse by changing the camber, making it smaller and also making it so we cannot now get to the shade of the trees on site near Letterbox Road) but have not had a reply to either contact.

Until we can see the money we pay going into roads and we be certain we are not just giving large profits to companies to fix roads time after time, we will not be happy with the value we do not get now. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.
 

5th July 2020 Part two. Roadtrain Triple to Darwin.

Goodaye all. Big week for green reflectors on Facebook this week, they got an enormous airing on caravan sites. The fellow who runs the Truck Friendly Facebook page put up a post, suggesting green reflector bays could be a good spot for a vanner to slow, pull into and then allow a truck to pass. He did show a photo of one enroute from Bundaberg which was a very wide paved shoulder, perhaps even ideal for what he suggested. However not all GRBs are paved, many are dirt and even then, some don’t have perfect edges, but can still be suitable for our needs, when formal bays are too few and far between.

He had put up posts before about the GRBs, but without the “getting us past”, suggestion, though with little responce. This time it went beserk, many shares and many comments of what a good idea, should be across Australia etc. Ken did call me to let me know (as did many others, thanks all) and I did reply to many comments and also put up some posts with further explanation. Ken too came back and explained further, detailing (after we talked about the photo and site he used in the original post) not all are paved, some may not be suitable, though not all may have seen these extra details.

In this second photo of the dirt bay, you can clearly see the skidmarks where a truck has seen the bay at the last second (most likely before the green reflectors were fitted) and tried to stop. There are guidelines for the sites that require good line of site, safe entry and exit, suitable surface and big enough for a vehicle using that road to fit and be clear of the road etc, so not just any bit of dirt is marked.

This site may well suit a caravan pulling over to let a truck get past and again, if this is simply an extra use that helps one driver or prevents one crash or even near miss, then I am happy to have started the idea and to see it even better utilised. All we need now is for it to become national. I did do a radio interview during my roadtrain trip last week and raised the idea there, as I have in every state in the past, but I cannot contact every district in every state and even if I could, I can only then ask, “Do you know of the Green Reflector Marking of Informal Truck Bays?” Someone much higher up needs to push it along.

There were some truckies replied, some were fair, please don’t use the sites for camping etc, some were rude, ridiculous and or over the top. Ken came back again detailing he had not suggested they were for camping, they must be left for trucks, but that both TMR Qld and RMS NSW confirmed they are not just for trucks in a legal sense. In such cases, a fair and reasoned reply will always work better than abuse. Telling vanners to “STAY OUT OF OUR BAYS” etc might make you feel good, but will often do more harm than good and we are supposedly in the good books now, so why be a dick about it.

Anyone who took more than one minute to read any of the original post or the extended updates must agree the idea of letting vanners know about the sites and suggesting if seen, they call up a truck which is following and then help us get around them, or even if they need to stop instead of in the middle of nowhere, can only be a possible benefit. Anything that helps us both to share the road safely must be accepted in that vain. There were of course some vanners who said, “Why should I move over” or “Will the trucks move over for us” and both of these comments show some people care little of others on the road, or simply don’t have a clue.

I started the idea of GRBs and have no problem with the suggestion such bays, if suitable, be used to allow a vanner to pull over to let us past. If one or two use them instead of stopping in a dangerous spot (and again I imagine you will agree some stop in bloody dangerous places without sufficient thought for their own safety, let alone that of others) then that is simply a bonus use.

Any of you who travel across past Broken Hill or north from Port Augusta may see some new GRB sites in those areas. If this flap and the extra interviews Ken did following the exposure helps us to get GRBs across the nation, then again, I welcome that exposure.

So to complete the Darwin trip story. Owner Driver had been aware of the trip and asked me to consider the differences pulling a triple to a double. There had been a major study, from memory it had cost a lot of money, that said you must not steer the truck subject to what the back (third) trailer did. This was my first triple and when I got to Darwin and spoke with Owner Driver (whilst having a meal supplied at the Simon depot, thanks it was excellent) I said that within the first 50 k, you learn very quickly to deliberately minimise the movement of the steering wheel, because if you don’t, you invoke even worse sway of the back trailer. “You worked out in half an hour, what a major study costing thousands took weeks to do”, was the comment.

My reply was that any driver would do so. My partner for the trip had also been doing it for years and whilst as I said he had been not so happy to see me at the start, he soon found I was a fulltime driver, not a journalist who drove only for stories. I don’t recall any specific instruction from him, but I imagine he had been watching me like a hawk from the start. He of course would be sleeping while I was driving and for many, unless you have confidence in your two-up partner, it can be vey difficult to sleep in a moving truck.

Instead of a major study, what they should have done was simply asked those who had been pulling triples and anyone of them would have been able to save them a lot of money. That is the problem, we as an industry never get asked and even rarer, get to contribute to things that affect us in our jobs on the road, our workplace which they will not recognise and those things which affect our safety and possibly our lives. This MUST change.

We did two drops on the way up, into the depot and then did a couple of deliveries round town. The photo of the last trailer still coming out the gate with a roadtrain already on the road gives a different view.

On the way north I had asked my partner if I could listen to an audio book. He said “I don’t care what you do unless it keeps me awake, so keep the volume down.” On the way into Darwin he wanted me to slow down, to hear the end of the book and the same happened on the way home, so it seems I had introduced and converted another driver to the idea of audio books. Not only that, I got a call from the lady who looked after the drivers a few weeks later, saying, “You and your audio books, the drivers want to start a bloody library now.”

I must have done a good job and not scared him too much, as when I got back to Toowoomba, I was asked if I could then take another double out to do a changeover at Blackall I think. It was a very enjoyable paid holiday and I thank David Simon, his staff and my partner for the trip for giving me a chance to get to Darwin my first time. I have been back as a b-double and hope to again soon.

Next week a video about living in the Hotel Kenworth, inside the TIV. Till then Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.