6th April 2019 ATA Convention.

Goodaye all. Currently at Sydney airport waiting for a flight back to Dubbo after attending the Australian Trucking Association Convention in Perth. It has been a few years since I attended one, but this year there was a rest area focus and I was asked if I would participate.

I got in late Wednesday after a long delay in Sydney, so missed the welcome drinks. Thursday had a “What is different in WA” start and then after release of the latest NTI figures with a couple of major issues raised, a panel with NTC/NHVR and others and after lunch were break out sessions. I attended the rest area and driving hours ones and would have liked to go to the image one, but it was on the same time as one of the others.

Finishing up the day, an informal dinner on the water with Thermo King supplying the latest in a long series of hand painted frig units up for auction, was lucky with the rain and on Friday morning a very serious session on Mental health and well being. Not only a problem in our industry, but on making a comment, I was assured by presenter and ATA Chairman, Geoff Crouch that all comments would be recorded, investigated and where and when possible, pursued with fervour.

This issue has been talked about for a long time and it was said by many, talking about it does not solve this problem, let alone the others the industry faces. However, I alone or you or anyone else on their own, has buckley’s chance of seeing anything major change or improve on their efforts alone. I am keen to work with the ATA, to contribute as and where I can and support their efforts where I see a chance to gain some improvement. Without members no association can “do” much and without members input, efforts and support, nothing much is likely to be achieved.

But if people do not raise issues, seek change and improvements through such groups, individuals will never achieve as much. There is still a role for such and I am not saying don’t have a go on your own, but you must choose your battles and do the best with your army, pity you can’t really choose you foes, they tend to come for you anyway.

Further sessions, lunch and a Q and A with an ABC TV flavour saw the RSRT get the audience very much involved. Senator Glen Sterle on the panel gave as good as he got, along with an assurance the first one was a balls up as it came to us, the next one will not happen that way and that the industry would be involved all the way with one aim, to get a better result for all drivers and owners in the industry.

Coming away there is still much to do and some will say, nothing has changed, but what are they, or you, doing to get that change underway? I sincerely hope many things will flow from this. I am not that blind or stupid that I think all will be solved tomorrow, but nothing will change if no one even makes a start.
Thank you to the ATA for a well run and organised event and to all who attended for their efforts. Now we must pursue what was started.

Thank you to the ATA and to Heather Jones from Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls and Success Transport for their assistance in attending, to Heather and Yogi for video interviews for “TRUCK THAT Australia”, to all who made me welcome and to all who said Goodaye. Also to those who stood up and had a say in any of the forums, the more who contribute, the better the outcome. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

3rd April 2019 Our roads!

Goodaye all. A big week this week, slow to start and then running all the way till the end. Lots of rain, lets hope my request for a rain dance and the issues of the drought helped it happen. You have to take the credit where you can. I was asked by a couple of clever workmates, when did I get brown truck, as that is how it looks a bit

Our roads now are generally good, but it is the bad bits which do all the damage to us, not so much you in your car, but geez it hits us in trucks. Of course that impact goes through the truck and causes much of the wear and tear and mechanical issues we then get either booked for and or have to pay to fix and maintain. This only decreases safety and increases the cost of transport. That impact then goes back into the road as well and causes further damage. Is this a chicken and egg issue? Did the bad road cause the truck to damage the road? If the road was good, then no impact into the driver, the truck, or the road.

Can we have perfect roads then that will not cause any of these problems? No! We have a large country with vast distances in between and a small population and don’t have the perfect land everywhere for roads. We have good land in some places for crops and we have good land for minerals, but we also have land useless for either and then we have roads and they rely on local land for the base and materials to use. They are only as good as they are built, would you agree?

Yes we can build them cheap and spend a fortune maintaining them, ignoring the damage and costs to road transport and I am not complaining about my job. What I am saying is if you live outside of a capital city, you need trucks to deliver things to you and to take crops and minerals away, if only to a rail head etc and if you don’t live along a railway line, you need a truck to get those things to move.

So do you agree that if we build and maintain roads to the highest standard, then that must be better than building them cheap, doing sub standard repairs and letting the trucks and drivers cop the impacts and the transport companies cop the maintenance costs and the consumer, cops a higher fee too.
Do you know of the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule. My view is that if you fix the worst 20% of road deformities, failures and impacts, you would then remove 80% of the damage and possible contribution to crashes, caused by such failures. This of course includes potholes and all sorts of road issues. Having safer roads is good for all road users and with it being my workplace as well, better and safer for all truckies too.

So how do we do that? We must help by reporting such issues to the authorities as they will not always know or see such thing thousands of kilometres away. They then must have the funds to do the repairs and must act in reasonable time. If we had a National Road Standard, then we could more likely guarantee better roads and improved safety and les cost to all. But what are my chances of getting such a thing up? Perhaps not so good, but will that stop me from pushing? No way. Till next week, Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

24th March 2019 Churchill Fellowships and drought.

Goodaye all. Applications are currently open for Churchill Fellowships till the 30th April 2019 for travel in 2020. It had been suggested to me by a couple of people over the last few years that I should consider applying. One friend had also done a study tour some years before, but I had invested a lot of time and many had contributed to the TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle and I believed I had to give them my all as well, so kept it in the back of my mind for some years.

The Churchill Trust is a well-run and planned organisation, that does look after those who become involved and does not just let you do a trip and that’s it. There is a rigorous and detailed application process with over 1,000 applicants each year and the range of topics and studies is enormous. There are some sponsored fellowships for specific or particular fields, but there are also general ones for everything else.

If you have a passion and believe you could improve the lives of others by learning how and what is done overseas in your field, give it a go. That is what it is all about, learning and then, helping others. You can look at their promo video at https://goo.gl/kf1b5L and I wish you every success.
You can read previous reports, (you are required to do one on your return) at the Churchill website, including my own of just over 60 pages with photos or you can visit http://www.truckingnation.com.au to see some of my videos and details on my Churchill Study Tour on “Trucks and Road Safety” in TRUCK That Australia over the last few episodes.

Maybe you could go and learn a raindance and save us all. The drought continues to worsen in places and we have floods in others. Where will it end and I don’t think it will be long, before it starts to bite into many who think they are immune in the cities. I hope it will come good before that for the sake of all Australians, but I also recognise many simply do not understand the breadth and scope and the impact it will have if it continues.

We can continue to export our mineral wealth, but we all need food, both here and overseas and we supply a lot of it. None of it will grow without rain, no cattle, no sheep and no crops and you can’t eat dirt. I don’t know how to fix it, but it bears raising and let us hope it improves soon and quickly without the floods that often follow and then do more harm as well.
Off now to the library for some more audiobooks to keep me entertained on the road and my mind off the worries of the world. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

17th March 2019 To blitz or not to blitz?

Goodaye all. Here I am stuck in Sydney for the week-end. It has a good side, I did get to the Eagles concert with my daughter on Thursday night, their last in Australia. Two and a half hours of music and toe tapping and singing along quietly (so as not to spoil it for others close by) was a most enjoyable evening and the company was magnificent. Of course, one of the problems of the job is not always being there, or even being available for your children when they might need you. Thank you to my daughter for the company and all my children, if they pooled together for the Chrissy present.

But now back to being alone and away from home and family, I am trying to catch up here. Many of you will have seen the recent blitz on truckies. I would welcome your thoughts on how you see things. I feel we are blamed by default for the actions of the few and I fail to see how hounding those trying to do the right thing for every minor thing (and then telling the world you caught as all out for serious breaches) tells the truth and may well do more harm than good.

Five truckies testing positive to drugs out of 1,500 and one to alcohol from 1,200 are too many, but please go and test the same number of car drivers and then tell me, we are the problem. I am asking for all the breaches to be listed, not just we got x number of logbook breaches and x number of defects. How many of the logbook offences were minor and how many of the defects the same?

Would I be overly cynical if I said the more they can report, the more it justifies the next blitz? How much do such exercises cost and would that money be better spent doing something to educate car drivers about sharing the road with trucks? Twice in the last week, including coming into Sydney, I have had cars try to push in front from a merging lane on my left, when I had traffic beside me and nowhere to go. They won’t speed up to “merge” safely and join the traffic at freeway speed and they won’t slow down and pull in behind me, I am expected to slow my b-double to let them in and they will get all irate and abuse me and wave their arms, if I don’t.

The law says merging traffic must give way to other traffic, let alone the fact I am on their right and take more to slow and get going again, thence delaying all traffic behind me as well. We do have blind spots in the region beside the cab and who even knows, let alone considers this? Had I not seen them for any number of reasons, had they hit me, they would have blamed me till the Police came and explained, they were in the wrong, yet would have told all their friends how the truck ran into them!

The other one is cars must get past the truck to take an exit, they can’t wait behind the truck and take the exit, no they must get past the truck, then cross two or even three lanes at the last possible second with no room or regard for their safety or anyone else’s. Do you think they want to be involved in a crash or killed? Do you truly think we do? Of course not on both counts, but then why do something so stupid, with a truck that will not even feel you?

Were you taught about sharing the road with trucks? Who by and what did they teach you? What was included in your learning to drive, about trucks? Let me know please and I welcome your comments on the above as well. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

10th March 2019 Oh for more time!

Goodaye all. Just a quick piece this week, much to do and too little time. Youngest daughter bought me a ticket for Xmas to see the Eagles in Sydney later this week, so working towards that at the moment. I have seen very few concerts, always on the road it seems. A mate wrote a song with that title, though more towards a singer who drives trucks and so is on the road for work and then also for his hobby, music as well.

Me too in that way, on the road for work and for my hobby, road safety and the TIV too. I put out my rest area paper to industry and others last week, with one reply so far. The ATA is planning a big rest area forum and discussion at their conference in April and I hope it will build on the current momentum, because we are simply going backward at the moment. How do we manage our fatigue, keep safe, let alone go to the toilet with few places on the road?

My next push is for a national road standard and I am working on putting in a serious complaint to TMR about some bits of road I have been asking to have fixed now for over 4 years. It is our workplace and you all expect to be safe in yours, don’t you, so why must we, the drivers, be the only ones doing all the hard work to stay alive, let alone be safe in our workplace on the road?
The roads are not up to a safe standard in places, those we share them with are not trained to share them with us and everyone says we have to be safe, yet few others care.

Do you think the roads should be deemed our workplace and how do we go about it?

It is frustrating to get things done at the moment, roads, rest areas, driver education and not just car drivers, we have to lift our game too, but with our crash rates down even more than car crashes, would you agree we are if not improving as much as we would all like, but we are trying and doing something. The pity is we do not seem to be getting any recognition, the authorities are taking credit, but I fear they think their actions have done it but have not, at least not to the extent they claim.

Nothing is as simple as we have more bigger trucks, so less crashes. Or is it that we have better technology in the trucks? We are more compliant than ever, yet the authorities still want the fines and seem to be hell bent on punishing us out of our wages. A fellow tells me his friend got a ticket for not putting 15 minutes in his logbook when he bought it. The fact he was out shopping with his wife at the time did not stop the officer diving him a $600 fine. Is that fair and reasonable? I have asked what he is going to do, I would fight it and until I see the ticket, I will reserve any further comment, but his is not the only one I deem overzealous. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

3rd March 2019 Stories, good and bad.

Goodaye all. In my audio book reviews just published on “Audiobooks for the road” on Facebook, I spoke of Les Norton an Aussie character in a book and that I should, (in my spare time) write books about an Aussie truckie. The only trouble is, you would have to come up with stories that would only reinforce the negative perception held of truckies generally. Stories of bad behaviour sells papers and books and no one wants to read of a bloke that just does his job and lives his life.

Now last week, I could say I was not where I was supposed to be in my b-double, had to unload where I could not without splitting trailers, got messed about and told one thing when it meant another re loads etc, then went to a place I had been before, only to find someone had changed the road and I ended up in a worse place, where I should not have been in Melbourne. The beach looked good and the looks from the shoppers were interesting and I managed to do a U turn where I would not normally do so and so far, have not invoked the ire of the authorities.

Now none of that is unusual for a bloke who drives a b-double, but unless I tell you I carried a load of gold, stole myself a new truck, found a dead body or made a fortune on an illegal load, would you read such a story and not think bad of me and us? Yes it is fiction, but I have spent 20 years now trying to show a good side and that some of us do care and writing exciting stories, no matter how much they were made up, would I think only reinforce the bad opinion of truckies. What do you say?

One day I will write a book about the TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle, but that will have to be when I have that spare time. Maybe then as a true story of something unusual for a truckie to do and for so long, it might interest a few, but outside of that, how do we get to the mainstream with a good story? I have tried magazines and others with the aim of showing a different side with very little success, but if I was involved in a crash, killed someone or was caught drugged of my face, then I would get all the press I didn’t then want.

There are few books of the good old days and even less of the current ones, but I would welcome your suggestions of you have found a good one.

On the other side last week, I had one bloke tell me I had many detractors, but he thought I did a good job and at sites where I had never loaded before, had staff, forkies, drivers and others, ask about the truck and why it had so many photos and sponsors. A couple were long time readers of my column in Owner Driver (19 years this year) and others seemingly fans of the truck and my efforts and that is nice to be recognised for good instead of bad. But those who disagree rarely say it to your face and are generally those who will whinge about things not being fixed, but do little if anything but that, to see them changed. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

23rd February Home Sweet Home.

Goodaye all. It is good to be home and visit the family and the dogs didn’t bite me, thank goodness.

But as a mate said when passing me on the way home on Friday, no rest for the wicked. Got some work done on the truck and trailers Friday afternoon, damn puncture from Adelaide leaked again, had to remove and fix not one, but both patches, bad enough doing it once, but lucky I have the Central Tyre Inflation (CTI) system to get me home.

Still more to do, but others wanted to go home, what is it with people? Hoped to get some more done Monday, but a call this morning, means an earlier loading time and have to reset my floors first, so much earlier start and maybe after loading, get a few more small jobs done and then off to Brissie again.

I have just finished reading the Austroads Guidelines for Heavy Vehicle Rest Areas, all 58 pages and it is terrific to have new and better guidelines. I contributed to the old ones before 2005 when they were released and that was a fight at times, not just with the authorities. I wrote, not emailed, 6 pages and was told, “No one else raised these things”, but in the end, there was only one diagram and it seems, many only looked at that and did not read the document, hence too many herringbone parking bays that provide no shade, no separation and are difficult to get in and out of, let alone you can’t open your bunk door for fear of getting it torn off, let alone the noise issue.

One of my passengers in the TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle was Mr Paul Retter AM, CEO of the National Transport Commission and one of the things I asked him for on that trip was to update the rest area guidelines and whilst it has taken a while, it is completed and I thank him for getting this started.

The only problem is, the new guidelines, will not in themselves, see any more rest areas built. That is the responsibility of the road agencies and thus far, we have been falling behind. So, in two weeks I will have a new document to put out seeking that to change and would welcome any thoughts and suggestions to see that materialise.

So as not to get thrown out of home after so short a stay thus far and having more to follow up and complete tomorrow to keep the TIV and I relevant and up to date, I will wish you all a good night. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

17th February 2019 Filming for safety.

Goodaye all and the weather is lovely here at downtown Barnawartha Victoria. We finished filming in the early hours of this morning completing some night shots and were back in the factory for the final shots this morning. All the rest of the crew have now headed home and I will catch up on emails and some sleep tonight, before unloading at the DC in the morning, then travelling on to Melbourne.

Stephen from Whiteline has lots of work to do to convert the filming we have done, into what I am sure will be a highly professional and valuable resource for learner drivers about sharing the road with trucks. It will be available to driving schools. clubs and any group interested in road safety generally, or for the safety of their members on the road. We would like to see it included in all learner handbooks and testing, with only one intent, to make drivers more aware of sharing the road with heavy vehicles, to make them and drivers of trucks, all safer on the road.

Since last weeks blog, I’ve had a couple of drivers say, “Now you know what it is like” to be away on the road for weeks at a time, but I have done it before, just had a good run for the last few years with the work Pilon’s have. Each of us do different tasks, cart different freight, but all agree the job is not what it was, that it needs to change in many ways and that those we share the road with, simply do not understand our issues, whether they be a lack of courtesy, common sense or rest areas.

I did manage to get some photos of some magnificent Kenworths and anyone who wants to supply one for the next TIV, call now. We all want things done, but few can do it all. I was unable to attend the AGM for the National Road Freighters Association to be here for the filming and have been a board member and participant with them for some years. They are one of the few grass roots groups that are trying to represent our industry and whilst I am trying to get members into the TRUCK That Australia Drivers Club, it is not in competition with NFRA, but like all things, if you want things done, you have to put in.

Fees and meetings and having only a few members that actually do anything, limit any groups ability to see things change. The TTADC aims to start at an even lower level and simply having a register of drivers who work fulltime and who may be able to offer a view, rather than attend meetings or paying fees that may not see value from, no matter how reasonable, may well be of interest to those groups we hope to influence.

Next month I will have my latest rest area document out for comment, the fourth in as many years, but simply getting to those who will listen, let alone make good decisions for the improvements needed is hard work. Not physically, just in having the time and ability to get to the right people and not give up.

This will be my twentieth year involved with road safety, in December the twentieth year since the first blue reflectors went up and you might nearly forgive me for saying, damn it should not be so hard to get something so simple up and running, but it is! Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

9th February 2019 Third week away.

Goodaye all. Well this will be my third week in the truck without a visit home and with filming for our Truckies Top Ten Tips next week end already booked in, that will be four weeks. Now any of you who know anything about trucking in the USA will know many drivers spend weeks or months away on the road over there or “out” as they say, it is a big place. We have drivers here who travel away from home for long periods as well.

Last week end I was in Moranbah on the side of the road for my 24 hour break, but I did manage to have a good meeting with Graeme from RAAG, the Road Accident Action Group, who drove out from Mackay. They have been supporters of the green reflectors and did some work in the area nominating sites, amongst many other worthwhile local road safety projects.

I am now at Marulan for my next 24 hour break and stopped to do filming for TRUCK That Australia February at the Mundoonan Rest Area on the way up and have heaps to do whilst here. I had hoped to have time at our depot, but my timeslot on Monday is on this side of town, so this will do.

I did receive my posters for the green reflectors during the week and have started putting them up in truckstops. Whilst at BP Lavington last night, the first driver who walked past made comment and I explained all about it and he said, what a good idea, we have all been in that spot at times, tired and needing somewhere to stop.

Last week the video was also released on the NHVR youtube page about the green reflector marking of informal truck bays and this week TCA released the data for green reflector bays on the Traveller Information Exchange (TIX) so it has been a big GREEN week.

I even saw “TRUCKIES HAVE BLIND SPOTS CAN THEY SEE YOU” on the overhead Variable Message Signs on the Hume, something I asked for many years ago, but it is good to see such messages being put in front of the public.

Later this month I aim to release my next rest area document. It is good to see the ATA and now NATROAD getting behind the need for more rest areas. With the release of the Guidelines for Heavy Vehicle Rest Areas from Austroads, we now need to follow through and push to get what we need on the road. If you are a driver, where do you have a problem with lack of capacity and or facilities?

We need someone at a high level of government to help us to achieve an improvement in truck rest areas. We are all told to manage our fatigue, yet how do we do that when there are not enough places to do so? It cannot be done overnight, it will take time, but we could do something quickly with green reflectors and with input from drivers. Who will help us? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

3rd February. Hello from Moranbah Queensland.

Goodaye all. It has been an interesting week. Off to an unusual late start on a Tuesday, to little ol” Sydney town for a visit to a DC, but with a bit of time before my slot, got the Mobileye system in the truck finally sorted and working. It may well have saved me the next day, pulling away with a car, then of course looking for other traffic and the car stopped. The Mobileye yelped, but I would hope I still would have stopped anyway.

There are times technology can help as above, even now getting this to you with a dongle from Moranbah in Queensland, yet we all want our skills recognised. Would you say you do recognise the skills of an interstate truckie? Have you ever seen this?

“When God Made Truck Drivers”¬
Author Unknown

When the Lord was creating Truck Drivers, he was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one?’ And the Lord said, “Have you read the spec on this order?” “A truck driver has to be able to drive 10 12 or more hours per day, through any type of weather, on any type of road, know the highway traffic laws of 6 states and 2 territories, he has to be ready and able to unload 40 tonnes of cargo after driving thru the night, sleep in areas of cities and towns that the police refuse to patrol.”

He has to be able to live in his truck 24 hours a day 7 days a week for weeks on end, offer first aid and motorist assistance to his fellow travellers, meet just in time schedules, and still maintain an even and controlled composure when all around him appear to have gone mad.” “He has to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half eaten meals; he has to have six pairs of hands.” The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way.’ It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord, It’s the three pairs of eyes a driver has to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel. The Lord nodded. “One pair that sees the herd of cattle in the scrub 3 miles away” “Another pair here in the side of his head for the blind spots that motorists love to hide in; and another pair of eyes here in front that can look reassuringly at the bleeding victim of a drunk driver that crashed into his FUPS bumper at 110 kph and say, ‘You’ll be all right ma’am, when he knows it isn’t so.” “Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.”

“I can’t,” said the Lord, ‘I already have a model that can drive 1000 kilometres a day, without incident and can raise a family of five without ever seeing them, on one dollar a kilometre.” The angel circled the model of the truck driver very slowly “Can it think?” she asked. “You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the elements of every HAZMAT load invented; recite Australian Road rules and regs for each state in its sleep; deliver, pickup, be a father, offer timely advice to strangers, search for missing children, defend a woman’s or children’s rights, get 8 hours of good rest on the street and raise a family of Law respecting citizens, without ever going home… and still it keeps its sense of humour”.

“This driver also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with delivery and pickup areas created from scenes painted in hell, coax a loader to actually work for his money, comfort an accident victim’s family, and then read in the daily paper how truck drivers are nothing more than killers on wheels and have no respect for the rights of others while using the nations highways, which are mostly paid for by truck taxes.”

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the driver. “There’s a leak.” she pronounced. ‘I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.” “That’s not a leak,” said the lord, ‘It’s a tear.” “What’s the tear for?” asked the angel, It’s for bottled up emotions, for fallen comrades, for commitment to that funny piece of cloth called the flag, for justice, for the family without its father. “You’re a genius,” said the angel. The Lord looked sombre. ‘I didn’t put it there.”

I found this on the notice board at the Boggabilla truckstop some years ago and asked for a copy. I will happily admit I have Australianised it a bit without I hope changing the context. Yes it might be a bit over the top, but much of it is true in what we do.

We work on roads that are not all highways, we share them with you, many of whom have not been taught to share them with us, we carry freight worth millions in total or for one load and we live in our trucks and on the road. Would you do it and if someone doesn’t, how will you eat, where will you live and how will you run a business?

Do you honestly recognise most truckies are professional freight relocation engineers, or do you think I am full of it. Let me know your views. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.