Well, goodaye all from Perth. I had considered a bit of a story each couple of days for those of you who may have been interested in such a trek as was being undertaken. I recognise it is not important in the scheme of things and those of you who read this, come from some different backgrounds and of course, have varying road transport involvement. But I thought it would be a chance for me to try a different format, both for my own experience and to see what comments it brought.
With my later than initially planned departure, some my fault and some not, the now slightly tighter timeframe and then word of an impending cyclone hitting just where I was due to deliver, some of the things I had planned as part of the trip did not lose focus, but moved down the scale of importance, as you must always be prepared to amend and balance issues as you go along. This was not just a trip to Melbourne or Brisbane and back, which I do every week, so if I see something but can’t act on it this week, I know I will get another look soon.
I do plan many things, have many aims, often have insufficient time to do all I would like to be able to do, but I am an employed driver. I must also do my part for the company and then do my stuff as and where it will fit, without substantial impact to my employer and their work and scheduling, which of course extends not only to their customers, but to my legal compliance with everything else. Knowing this would possibly be a once in a lifetime trip, but also being realistic, it could change, I did plan to do some green reflector bays, check out rest areas, make notes on roads and rest areas for a section of the network I do not get to travel regularly and in the format I was due to be in, roadtrains etc.
I would welcome some feedback from you readers. I enjoy all I do, wish I could do more of some things and less of others, but we all need to pay the bills. I enjoy writing and getting comments on my experiences and whilst that is not the only reason behind the blog etc, some of it is cathartic, it gives me even in writing it, pause to help decide how to focus more on some things and less on others, overall, to gain the best from the time spent. This is a bit deep, but with a new truck coming, I will have to even more, get the most benefit for the best outcomes. Comments welcome please.
It has been an interesting week. I left home last Sunday after trying to do a lot of things in a little time, so was later than I had planned by the time I left the yard in Dubbo. Knowing it was to be a long trip (but I am sure you are shocked it had already changed by Monday and kept doing so till Wednesday PM), I did my shopping, bought a large container of extra drinking water, then at the yard, got a 20l drum of water for the truck and 5l of oil. I have a water tank and extra oil etc in my trailers, but were not taking them due to the nature of the load.
It had initially been planned as a triple from Dubbo, but we also had a single trailer load for Perth, so it was decided another driver would take the single and my third trailer towards Perth as a double roadtrain and drop my third at Norseman, where I would hook it up and go north with three. I left Dubbo at 3PM Sunday after my 24 hour break etc, having only got home Saturday morning. I had checked the third trailer over before it left when in the yard Thursday before I went to Melbourne. Saturday I asked to have a few tyres replaced, as was looking at a possible round trip of over 15,000k if I loaded back across the top as a triple, as was the plan when I went home Saturday.
Before I went home I got another driver to hook the trailers up and check it all over, so I could come in Sunday and just go and that part went well, sort of. I headed out and got to Emmdale just as they were closing, was needing a quick break and they had turned off the grill but offered me toasted sangas. I got two with a cuppa, chatted while eating, offered up some green reflector bay posters and then back into it and made it through to the other side of Broken Hill. Then went to bed just before 1AM, so as not to lose any hours by being on the road in the “night hours” which then carry a loading into your maximum work hours for the week and I did have a big week or two in the weeks ahead.
Up, brekkie, a look over the load, add another strap to a couple of blocks of timber in a pack which wanted to move out, then a bit up the road stopped at a suitable green reflector bay before Oodla Wirra and not only found a good ratchet with a broken strap someone had discarded, but then another strap and ratchet still wrapped up as if just dropped. All good across the SA border, spoke with our other driver in front who had been delayed at the WA border, so I gained a bit of time on him and kept pedalling, but had been told the plan to come home round the top had changed.
It would have been a near round Australia trip and my first that way across the top of Australia, but such is life and it was to change much more and with more impact yet. I was making a list of issues, bad bumps, parking bay issues etc as I went. A covid test, yes quick and painless at Port Augusta, refuel, check straps and load and launch into the wide blue westbound yonder. On that second night, was westbound after having a chat with another driver who recognised the truck as he went past me, we covered rest areas and roads and green reflector bays.
Again hoping to pull up by 1AM for the hours and not knowing the road, I started looking for a parking bay from about 12.30 AM, but there was none, then a couple. on the eastbound side, but signed no entry for westbound trucks, then I missed one not signed for westbound and in the end, pulled into an eastbound one signed No Entry.
There will be much to follow up with from this trip, but the first is who, how and why are some rest areas marked signed and or designed or not, for both directions of travel? Some do, some don’t, some will and some won’t suit both directions of travel, but where I was still east of Nulllabor, there is some bloody big gaps, there are some rest areas but only signed for eastbound traffic, yet in other places where there are more rest areas, some are signed for both directions and others not. Yes, rest areas cost money to build and then to maintain, but to us we need them to survive, manage fatigue, prevent fines and they are critical to each of these issues and of course, important to other motorists as well, but not to the same extent.
We have so far to go to get consistency, suitable capacity and sufficient facilities for truck drivers in rest areas and we all live and drive in often, many states of this one country, yet we have those who understand, those who don’t, others who don’t care about us, yet have control over our lives and even as simply, as to whether we can use a toilet, what a disgrace.
Anyway, back to the trip. Got up and headed west, saw a Parking Bay sign just up the road and thought, should have kept going, only to then find it marked, NO TRUCKS, that would have been very bloody helpful, NOT! Because we are a fairly adaptable bunch, we have pushed and parked and made a wide shoulder in the front of this no truck bay, but it would not have been the best place for an 8 hour break, I would have not got quality sleep with trucks rocketing by a coupe of feet away and had I continued, the next one was much further on just before Nullabor Village, would I have made it safely? Who cares, not those who have control of our lives and our parking bays.
This is the part where it all starts to go awry. Through the WA border, Coppers good and smiling and satisfied, border not as friendly but all good in the end and away. Down the pass and along the flat and I smelt something burning, checked the alternator, voltage down, pulled up, belt and pulley now screaming and shut it down. Fairly certain of the problem, drop bullbar, cab up and check, alternator pulley seized. Cab down and try the phone. Got through, lost signal. Up on load, signal back, rang workshop with the news. “Really, where?” was the first comment, yes really, yes on the Nullabor. He would get back to me. Only 28 hours later I would be back on the road, what else do you do, catch up on paperwork, do my diary, make a couple of calls, some came out of the blue and lasted, others failed, must have been the cyclone?
Now another issue. The Nullabor has near perfect wide shoulders, good road surface and some rest areas and if you break down or blow a tyre, you can stop nearly anywhere and change it with relative safety as the reasonably light traffic has long straight vision to see you. It did not have any green reflector bays till then. I had looked ahead to a slightly wider shoulder, thought that a better place to stop, hoping it was only minor, but was there 28 hours. Once a diagnosis and plan was in place and knowing I would be there for a while, I put out my breakdown triangles.
A couple of trucks stopped asking was I OK, one as I was walking up the road a good way from the truck. I explained I was going to the next guidepost as they are a good way apart here and what I was doing. A young fellow pulled up in a ute, but had only some DAF and Volvo parts and knowledge. I could possibly have put up a sign asking for a Kenworth/Cummins alternator, or sat on the radio and called many trucks. I knew I would not starve, had the again, magnificent Icepack, which would keep me cool and with power, so was if not content, not concerned for my immediate safety, but still annoyed, bugger this.
I did suggest work ask some of the regular Perth runners if they carried an alternator, but was told it was in hand. MMMMMM. Later that evening, it was decided the lead truck, who had made it to Perth and was reloading, would simply bring me one back, but the timing for Port Hedland was now getting critical and the cyclone was still coming and things would have to be sorted when back on the road.
As above, I will continue the story, but will hold you in suspense and have a break for now. Back soon, Rod Hannifey.