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.

28th January 2019. Green Reflectors and Rest Areas.

Goodaye all. Sorry for the gap, so many things to do. From the ATA Facebook page, “The Austroads research report ‘Guidelines for the Provision of Heavy Vehicle Rest Area Facilities’ was developed in response to calls for updated standards and will assist in the planning, design and prioritisation of truck rest areas” and it has just been released.

We are still a long way off having what we need, but now we have a document we can use to get better facilities. As you will imagine it is fairly detailed and I aim to read through in the next week and respond further. The “Green Reflector Marking of Informal Truck Bays” has been included and I have received some comments from others, congratulating me on the effort over the last 19 years to have them instigated.

The Newell Highway is all done and there are others in NSW, Qld and Victoria, but until we have suitable and sufficient rest areas for trucks, we need to know where there are safe spots to park, if and when we need them. Let us hope this report can help get the green reflectors national, until we have enough formal spots.

How many of you use roadside rest areas and what do you think of them generally? Years ago we did some trips when moving and found those with either a playground or of course, only at certain times a Driver Reviver, were the best suited for those with kids. Toilets and shade are the essentials for getting out of a car of truck for a break and of course, then we need rubbish bins. Is there enough bins, are they close enough or is it just the lazy and stupid who can’t be bothered to use them and then throw their rubbish out the window.

On the Newell with its gaps between towns, from just after 15 minutes out of each town, the rubbish starts. How do we get people to do the right thing and can you imagine what their homes must be like, or is that different? Then when the mowers come through, it all gets chopped up and spread even further. We need someone to design an attachment to go on the front of the mower and pick up all the rubbish first. The problem would be the first time it was used, you would need a fleet of tippers to cart the rubbish away!

What and where is the best rest area, car, truck or other, that you have ever used and why? I used to travel to Gladstone via Taroom and the toilet block there was always clean and tidy and I wrote to the council to thank them. Have you ever written or rang about a good, or bad site. If we don’t thank them, they may not feel recognised and if there is a site that is not up to standard, someone also needs to know to get it fixed.

How you report it is also important. Just abusing someone on the phone will never help and may make it worse. I have rang and told of a problem rather than just complained and I empathise with those who have to clean up after the morons that do things we must imagine, they would never do in their own homes.
The worst part is the often the trucks do not even get the facilities car drivers do, or simply can’t access them, by signage or design, deliberate or otherwise. We do need toilets too! The ATA are planning to follow up on the report at their conference in Perth in April and I hope they get good comments and suggestions and that there is then follow up to get some more rest areas built. To you in a car or RV, it may be just a spot to stop for a break, but for us it is where we sleep and live.

I would ask all, truckies included, to read the report and submit comments and to all to respect the value and needs of all drivers on the road. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

10th January 2019. Happy New Year.

Well a Happy New Year to you all.

Sorry for the late posting. Last week end we continued the filming for the Truckies Top Ten Tips and hope to complete more this week end. Five and a half hours to wash the TIV by hand on a hot Barnawartha day last Friday (after me helping a fellow fix two blown tyres and a damaged airbag, for a good start to the day, though he did then buy me breakfast) for filming Saturday and Sunday had me knackered but the TIV looking good. No internet access when I got to Melbourne, late Sunday meant no blog, so I started painting the rope rails on the trailers instead, finishing at 9PM.

I had quite a discussion with a mate driving north from Dubbo yesterday about the Christmas period road toll. What a terrible way to start the year for all those families involved who have lost someone. We weren’t there and only when the crash investigations are completed will most of the facts be known, but unless you are involved or follow up months or years later with coroners reports and the like, do we really listen and learn from what happened?

Those involved may know, they may well accept some responsibility, but none of us want to see anyone killed, let alone members of our own families, yet it continues to happen. Coming out of Melbourne Tuesday afternoon approaching the Shepparton exit, a car passed me as I passed the exit and I looked down to see the passenger point to the exit and the car lept forward across three lanes less than a metre in front of me to take that exit. I am sure the kids in the back appreciated the care and consideration given to their possibly very short lives.

Imagine being the person to kill them all, because the driver simply didn’t think, maybe we should drive on and take the next exit. I never want to be that person, yet others can find themselves in exactly that position, simply by going to work. If they are blamed in the press for those deaths and quite possibly may not be the guilty party, what sort of a life will they have in the future?

I really hope that when we have the Truckies Top Ten Tips (for sharing the road with trucks) available in the future, that it will become part of learner driver education. It will not stop every crash, but it may save a life or more and may just stop a truckie being blamed in the media for something they were not responsible for. I do hope it will prevent a truckie from seeing any such event in their nightmares every night after such a tragedy, but we must do more.

What can you do to improve road safety? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

29th December. Goodbye 2018. A TRUCKING Good New Year to all.

Goodaye all. Well as per a favourite Pink Floyd song, “but your older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death”, yet still keen to both make an effort and make a difference. It is terribly sad for those drivers who have just lost their job a week before Christmas, who’s fault is it? Will the truth ever come out and will those responsible ever pay the price they should? Or will they get away with it and just start again?

One driver I heard from, has now had it happen more than once and will be unlikely to ever catch back up, let alone get the wages and benefits he was entitled to. How can such a big concern, working full time and with set runs for some of the biggest transport companies in Australia, fold like that? Lets’ hope someone is held to account and wish that it doesn’t happen again.
If you were lucky to have family at home, presents and good food and everything else, take one minute to consider those who did not, those who work to give you the lifestyle you have, truckies and many others who all work through such days and we all forget them at times, I fear.

I did a radio interview with a mate on a local community station Friday afternoon and we discussed the TRUCKRIGHT year. He was very happy to give me the chance to get a view to others and I thank Mark for the opportunity. I even got a Facebook message from another who heard the conversation travelling along the Hume. Mark, after asking when I was working over the break, did say it was the first time in the years we have been chatting on the radio that he recalls, where I did not go to work Boxing Day, but I will quite likely be on the road across New Year’s Eve.

I can’t recall spending Christmas night on the road, but did get home one Christmas morning, telling my children I had driven from one side of the country to the other, over four full days to get to them at the end of the U2 Tour. From Perth via Melbourne to Dubbo and you can read all about it in “Rock and Roll Trucking” in “The Best Australian Trucking Stories” by Jim Haynes and it is available on audio as well, if you are interested. Many times, on the road Boxing Day and New Year’s Day to deliver the following day, but too often away when family needed me and for that I will ever be ashamed I could not be there, when they did.

But it is the start of a new year and so I wish you all a TRUCKING Good New Year. My aims are to get;
1. A National Truck Rest Area Strategy up, so we have national standards for design, placement and capacity. The same standards for roadside bays, informal green reflector bays in all states and recognition of the need for more for all, but specifically for truckies. How we can use stockpile sites and old road alignments when roads are improved and or duplicated, instead of wasting those assets.
2. Some minor changes to fatigue laws allowing split rest, personal use and nose to tail shifts for all, but not on consecutive nights and with other limitations.
3. Keep on with the work of the TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle and get a new one on the road.

That should keep me reasonably busy. Any help or suggestions welcome, so travel safe and see you next year. Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.