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24th October 2021 Roads and Associations again.

Goodaye all, nearly the same week as last, Dubbo, Melbourne, Dubbo, Newcastle, Emerald, Rockhampton and back to Dubbo, just on 5000k for the week. I rang TMR and reported a culvert that felt like a 6 inch drop, one bridge with both abutments dropped both north of Springsure and rang RMS to ask about lost truck bays in the Singleton to Belford road improvement. We are losing the formal one at the Golden Highway intersection, which was badly designed and not much use and then the informal bit before the camera, which will now be the new road.

The lady who rang me back from RMS told me the ones on the Hunter Bypass where built with these losses in mind and I explained there are still not enough bays and the westbound one had all the trees blown down and left to die after the money had been spent to buy them. She said she would put my views forward and I thanked her.

Now getting roads fixed is a big job and I don’t travel them all, where some of you travel the same roads every night, so you know where the problem bits are, but have you ever reported any of them? I do not expect any driver to ring every time they see a bump, that would be a waste of everyone’s time, but if within NRFA we could have three or four blokes for each highway and they kept in touch and each week reported the worst bump or issue for that road, then the authorities might act. I have had hundreds of bumps, dips and road failures repaired and or at least, improved and the authorities do not travel every road every day, nor do they ever do it in loaded trucks, so they simply may not even know of the issue.

I have asked for drivers to join an association, I don’t even mind which one you join, but with so many drivers and so few in associations, all struggle to get a voice and to have that voice heard. But with enough members, that might change. All also struggle with having a few do all the work, but if we had small groups with one focus, for example a particular highway and they could focus on that but still have the support of an association, then perhaps we could achieve more, have safer roads for all and not expect the few or just me, to fix every bump and pothole in Australia.

So if you want your highway fixed, join the NRFA now, become part of the group for your highway and all you will have to do is work with two or three others once or twice a week, keep a record of what you agree to be the biggest problem and how and when you report it, either separately which would be preferable, the more complaints the more likely they are too act, the more we might get done.

Now I should not have to tell you, if you ring and abuse or are rude to the person taking the complaint (and yes we are all frustrated they don’t build, maintain and fix them all better, this is why we are asking for a NATIONAL HIGHWAY STANDARD) then the time and effort will be wasted, they will think all truckies are idiots and nothing will change. But if you ring and explain you travel this road each night and you believe this to be a road safety hazard and are reporting it to make the roads safer, then who knows, we might get much more done. Be genuine, don’t ring about a divet the size of your thumb, report serious flaws and failures.

There is a “duty of care” for all road authorities, if something is reported and they fail to act, they can be held liable. Yes, they have an out if they don’t know, “How can we know of every bump of failure” will be what they say and fair enough, some of them have very large networks to cover and can’t cover every kilometre each month, let alone each week, hence also the need to keep a record.

Yes you can do this on your own, but how many of you do now, if more did, then we may not need to organise this plan, but if you and a few others can agree on the worst bit that week and all report it, then the authorities will have to act. That is why we must keep some sort of record. Now Vicroads will give you a reference number and so it can’t be simply “lost” or forgotten, I have spoken to them and had them go back months to when it was last reported and then can say, “Why has this not been actioned?” It is our lives and our safety and if you want to do it alone, please do, but I would like to try this way and see what we can do, so come on, join the NRFA.

But if you want to join the QTA, VTA, SARTA Natroad or any of the others because you think they will do more for you, please do and then ask them to support our NRFA 6 point plan. If you haven’t seen it yet, then check our Facebook or web page and let us know what you think? Do you agree with the points, will you help us achieve them? Who else will do it if we don’t and we can’t do it alone, let alone with only a few hundred members?

And now the video. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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17th October 2021. Back on the road week 2.

Goodaye all, it has been a busy week and this will be short as I am now trying to catch up and get ready to hit the road again. Living in a truck is not just taking your logbook and off you go. You need clothes and food and tools and every time, particularly when you only plan to be in it for a short time, say a few weeks, you get what you think is all you need, there is always something else you “might need”. Then you can’t do it all in one hit unless you make a list and some jobs need more stuff again.

But that is life on the road. I even had to supply a curtain as the last driver either removed them or didn’t need them as it was used locally in Sydney for a while. But if you have to sleep in it, you can’t even get changed, let alone sleep in the lights during the day, or depending where you sleep, the lights from other vehicles. Just another issue to deal with.

I left without audiobooks to keep me occupied, then found my library membership had expired and had to ring and sort that and now find the stereo the truck in the day, is not the best for audiobooks, Ok for music but I prefer windows open rather than aircon, so more to sort to be happy and comfortable in my new interim home.

I have not taken my frig, simply another heavy thing to fit and deal with, so have been living on stuff that does not need refrigeration and it is not as easy. For the first time I have tried Beef Jerky, a friend gave me some and where I used to eat lollies and chocolate, not all day of course, but when you need that pick me up, I have tried the Nile River Mild Chilly and Heated Garlic and they do lift your taste buds and your spirit. My old favourite anzac biscuits and Coles Raisin and Oat cookies have kept me fed, but I look forward to simply having more options when you have a frig.

Thanks to those who have made the effort to join an association and I did get a reply from a couple of people in associations and have asked them to push our 6 point plan. There will be a 7th point dealing with loading delays etc and specifically DCs, but that will follow on from our survey. We need some input to have some data to show an issue and will then formulate a plan to try and address it. Yes it is yet another of the twenty year problems and if you can fix it tomorrow, we will all be thankful, but if you can’t then make the effort to help us try. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.  

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10th October 2021 Back on the road again and a request.

Goodaye all, back on the road again. Whilst off, I became enamoured of the “Assassins Apprentice” series of books by Robin Hobb. I had read all the “Rangers Apprentice” and “Brotherband” series by Australian author John Flanagan and recommend them for kids and adults. So into book 5 “The Golden Fool” and took it and was barely able to keep up with my diary and so did not even get to read a word. So much for a gentle return.

Now if I was to detail the issues, all of you who drive trucks would say, just a usual week, but others may not be aware of the life we lead, so they can have food, fuel and clothes etc. I was obviously dreaming when I had hoped to have the truck and trailers I was to drive (till the new truck finally gets here) in the yard early so I could go over them and give them a tidy up if needed. In the end I had to go to Sydney to pick up the truck, that then involved some issues before I even started it up. Then there was the other truck which had left before me and he had a problem, with more that just mechanical issues, some of understanding and language as well.

So, “Rod will you please go out and see what the problem is and report please”? on my way back to Dubbo. It turned out to be the gearbox, but was not immediately obvious and we ended up having to drop one trailer, bring the truck back down the (big) hill and then tow the other truck up to the top, go back and hook up and go to Dubbo.

Seeing us in the dark (I had triangles out) and had just given me new shoulder a good workout winding down the legs and had unhooked the hoses and lights to tow the broken down one to the top, I saw some blue and red lights behind us. I went back to explain and was asked why were we in the dark and where was my mask? So I explained and thought, they might stay with their lights on while we moved at least one bit, but no, “Don’t be long” and they were gone. I was perhaps a bit jabbery, but was trying to get it done as we were only inches off the road and not in the best spot.

Then I had a plan to have all day Monday to get my gear together, get a few things tidied up on the truck and trailers Tuesday morning (due to the NSW public holiday), but got a text apologising for interrupting me, but could I call. One of the drivers wife had been taken to hospital and I may be needed tomorrow, could I help? She may be OK, but will know in the morning. Yes I can go if needed, Thanks.

Nine AM Sunday, you’re up. I had a timeslot to load, got most of my gear and by ten was on my way got my next covid test, did shopping, gear in and on the way to break down half way there. Mechanic came out, sorted, rang the loading point again to say I was now on the way and when I got there, they said “You will get a good nights sleep in here, we will even turn the lights off”. I was the last truck to load Sunday and whilst they were not impressed, they were fans and like many during the week wanted to know what I had done wrong, was I being punished, where was the TIV etc?

That was the start of the week and it never got much better. You all know how things change and no one else customers etc, care about your time as much as you do. I had to deliver another driver to pick up a truck and he did not want to sit in the passenger seat while I slept, as I had to do a delivery first (geez Peter, I am not that bad company am I) so we compromised and I had tea and a shower and went back to the truck to sleep, leaving early the next morning and that threw me out a bit later that night.

Again, it was not the week from hell, it was just a normal week nearly, but as the first week back after 6 months off and aiming to be gentle on my new shoulder, some of the steel gates have tested it, but some places did help or did so when I asked, but some like always, you do it all on your own and hurry up without even a please, let alone a thank you.

So three states, many passes, tests and highways covered, very nearly 5000k, so kept going and just 24 hours off and back into it tomorrow. Lucky I love this job! Still so much to do, the Newell hasn’t got much better overall, we lost 20 unmarked informal truck spaces with the work towards Goondiwindi and now they have closed the southbound More pads with gates. The Pacific still needs a changeover bay somewhere, yet the new Grafton bypass looks a million dollar road, does have two big new parking bays (and I slept in one) and I only found one bad dip.

The new TIV is still coming, is painted and getting radios, a turntable, central tyre inflation and one or two more things and then off to Brissie for the balance. Maybe on the road in a month.

So now for the video. I heard the other day there are over 200,000 truck drivers in Australia, but I bet less than 10,000 are in associations. I will ask all of you for two things and want you to comment, either tell me how to do it better, or what I am doing wrong. If you join one for one year, then I want you to push them to support our 6 point plan. If you have the solution, let’s hear it. If not give this a try for one year. I don’t think it is too much to ask. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.