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.

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