30th July 2021 Covid, trucking and safety.

Goodaye all. To those drivers suffering under covid permits, forms and frustration, I say surely by now, you would think we would have a national plan. We have been told we are essential, (until we need a toilet, then we are a pest to be ignored or told, go somewhere else) we have been then forgotten again, till the next lockdown and people emptied the shelves.

They did not need to of course, but it is a new world we all live in and those people who have been locked at home and or don’t have a job, are and will be suffering for some time to come. We however have been asked to fill in multitudes of forms, permits, carry letters, get tested, then get tested more, then get tested even more again.

I am no disease expert, I am not a health expert, but I do understand trucks and this is where, my mate “The Interstater” and I do agree whole heartedly. Too many who use our services and the majority of those who control them from afar and even worse, every person who simply thinks milk (for example but this applies to every thing and commodity) just falls out of the sky by magic every morning and appears in the shop, do not understand this trucking life.

They have no idea what we give up to see them have their milk etc, etc. Yes it is a job many have chosen, some have fallen into by default, through family business etc, others thought it must be a good job, until they tried it. I have just read another article about the driver shortage in the USA and England seems to be even worse off currently. How many jobs or industries have a turnover rate (so the percentage of employees who they have to replace each year, not new ones, just the existing workforce) of 90% or higher as in the USA?

Now we all know the grass is greener on the other side, they earn more, get better conditions, get extra benefits until of course, you leave your current job and go to work there and it is not as you were told, or thought you had spent all that time checking into. Once you get there, you find it is no better and sometimes even worse, than where you were before. You might have found after awhile, you did not like the boss, or the mechanic or the truck or the location, so you look around for a change or something better.

People are funny aren’t they? But to have every single employee leave in a year is not so critical perhaps if you have two, but what if you employ 1000, or more? This driver shortage has been discussed, disputed, argued over as a beat up and talked about in the USA for years and here too, but not to the same extent. We know the average age of a b-double driver here is nearing 60 and it has only just been confirmed that according to the CEO of the NHVR in his latest industry post, the freight task in Australia is growing faster than the population, perhaps twice as fast and the task here is the 5th largest in the world.

So we might need some more truckies soon, unless of course they can perfect driverless trucks? Till then all we are really asking is a fair go, decent facilities to manage our fatigue and a decent income for the life we live on the road and what we and or families give up, so others can have those things they wish to buy.

In the USA, they had a campaign, “If you don’t want trucks on the road, stop buying stuff” and in the UK when I was there, they had a t-shirt, “If it wasn’t for trucks, you would be cold, naked and hungry” so not only here in Australia, do we struggle to get our message across to those who make the decisions. How do we change that? Many have tried, but it hasn’t changed things enough.

We are not perfect, we make mistakes, but for all my contacts and mates in the industry, we go to work to feed our families and to get home safe each trip. Is that enough reason to ignore our needs, which are the same as most peoples’? I wish I had the answers, or someone did. But I am still keen enough to set up another TIV and commit to that for the next five years. Many are contributing and supplying product and or support etc and I thank them all and will do my bets to not only give them a return on that investment, I hope to save a life or two. When I started all this, I said, “The worst that can happen, is that no one listens, nothing changes and I simply put in a lot of effort and time and money, but if one motorists sees the Truckies Top Ten Tips, one rest area gets built or improved or a truckie uses the green reflector bay when tired, or I get a bit of road fixed and that prevents a crash or a death, then all my efforts, will have been worthwhile.”

I may save one life, I will most likely never know of that or any others, but you must have a purpose and a goal, for you have far too much time on the road thinking and driving for others who will risk your life, thinking of the family you are away from and hoping to get home safely for yet another trip. Please think the same each time you go out on the road and maybe, we will all get home safe. Till next time, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.


18th July Number 2

Goodaye all, sorry for the gap, I had the last one already for last week and the videos would not load, then I got sidetracked just a bit. Much has happened and the ramping up of testing and the lowering of how we are treated in some places, seems to show the bad and then the worst.

I was though invited into a phone hook up Friday, but when first asked, I was led to believe the changes were specifically for Syd/Melb runners, due to the Sydney issue and then the removalists too. However, at the meeting when I asked about Bris/Melb runners, they said “Don’t you go through Sydney?” and some do, but not all. I explained we go through Dubbo, but was then told all of NSW was now considered a hotspot.

So prior to midnight Friday, there was to be details and explanations provided, with the requirement for testing every three days for those truckies entering Victoria. Now there are always two sides to a story. It was emphatically stated and agreed, we as an industry have done a good job, we have not been involved with spreading the virus and have continued to do our jobs. But, they know how many trucks cross the border each night and they are all meant to have permits, yes they are onerous and take time and effort, but that has been why we have had a reasonable run, till they counted the permits issued against the number of trucks.

It would seem, even if you take into account those who may run up and down each night with the permits done as needed, there are far too many not doing that at all. So what do the government do, they say, enough! Now SA has gone even further requiring testing every two days and I do think that is not only difficult without the facilities and the time involved, it is nearly impossible for some.

What can we do? We can get our permits and do our testing and hope that this two week set up with Victoria shows we are not the problem they perceive we might be and it may well revert to the previous set up, but we will have to ensure we keep up our end. Without testing available on the highway and 24 hours a day, how can you get it done without not only impacting your fatigue, but be able to get the job done?

They will not be calling every truck in, this is a soft closure, but if you are caught not complying and can be shown to have had the chance, but could not be bothered, the future may look much worse. Please make the effort, but if you try and cannot comply, then we must have reasons why. Please let me know if you have troubles getting tested, they are saying you will be able to at Kalkallo inbound and Broadford outbound. Now using the weighbridge won’t affect us, but if they take the Kalkallo pads and parking away, that could be a problem.

Similarly, I have had complaints about the loss of parking at Chiltern, and did contact those involved with the meeting and the VTA. This was the reply from the DOT Victoria,

The Chiltern rest area checkpoint is used on a sporadic basis by VicPol and was established at VicPol’s direction approx. 10 days ago.  Its used for light vehicle checks and, as far as I know, not for freight, but we recognise that this does impact on the freight industry as it reduces the number of rest stops available to manage fatigue.  Even when the site is not operational (approx. 3 days a week) the rest area remains closed as we have been asked by VicPol to keep the checkpoint infrastructure in place as they reserve the right to activate it at short notice.

I have replied just now and we will see. The next issue is again, being refused access to toilets etc. Would you all agree, you would be happy to wipe toilets seats before and after use with wipes being provided, rather than told, “You can’t use our toilets”? I do not condone actions that will make things worse, but imagine if pollies in Parliament House and Police on the road were refused access to toilets? I can’t solve the problems, but I do care and will keep trying. Safe Travelling, Rod


18th July Number 1

Goodaye all. How can we ever get a fair go, when we can’t even get a standard border pass and or protocol for state borders now. We explained what the issue is, we can’t all carry another forest worth of permits for each state each week, nor can we comply when you change things overnight.

You know we will do our best to comply, you know we can’t afford hours and hours of delays at borders, yet what has been done to solve this, nothing? If the pollies ran out of toilet paper, maybe then we would get some action and common sense if both formulating, applying and managing such things would get them a clean bum?

Truck lanes at borders will cost nothing, will help flow and give us a chance to deliver that paper and everything else. The states all want to be different, they want to maintain their power base, we understand all that, but why would you make things that much harder to cross borders when we supposedly all live in Australia?

We have come some way to having national transport rules, some will say we still have a long way to go, but at least now we have two sets of rules, one for the east with NHVR and one for the west and north, better than 7 sets.

So then we have the issues of lack of rest areas and even with the Pacific Highway, with millions spent improving it, there was no provision for a change over facility included. We are pushed to be compliant, we struggle to get drivers due to lack of facilities etc and when we set things up so a driver can get in a loaded truck, drive to the half way point, change trucks or trailers, then drive home and have another local driver unload and reload for the next night, so the interstate driver is home in his own bed each day, we need places to change the trucks and or trailers.

We waited 30 years to get one on the Hume at Tarcutta and we needed one 15 years ago on the Pacific, but now it is all four lanes and truly, probably the one of if not the best road in Australia, there is not enough rest areas and no where set up for changeovers. How can this be so? Are we truly that less of a group of workers, that we don’t need toilets or places to sleep or comply than any other working group?

Back to the Churchill Fellowship videos. Now for those of you who enjoy watching trucks go round and round, or spinning up tyres and doing burnouts, this may be something you enjoy. It is not everyday you see prime movers towing caravans with only one intent, but it seems the Poms have a funny sense of humour. Now I am not making any comments other than, it is a truckshow and such things seem to be enjoyed by the crowds, I had even heard of it before I visited the Convoy in the Park, so it seems they have done it before, but please do not take offence if you are a vanner. I didn’t do it! Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.