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COMMENT: Attending heavy-vehicle related forums is sure way of getting the truckies’ point of view across.

I was in Mackay for a Heavy Vehicle Road Safety Forum last month, having been invited by Queensland Police. There are many industry issues, the dragging on of the Heavy Vehicle National Law review the biggest, but the on-road issues and the safety of the drivers who do the work is from where I sit too often overlooked. Like too much of our regulations, it’s controlled and policed by those who do not have to do the job!

This meeting, the format and speakers could achieve some change. It was intended to act, not just talk. It had the right intent and that coming from an assistant police commissioner who actually holds a truck licence and drives trucks, is a real and welcome change. Having worked in the area, then and previously, I could raise local issues and yes, there are a few more green reflectors around there now.

I was the last speaker before the panel discussion. This was my list:

  1. Education of young learner drivers about sharing the road with trucks, preferably starting in schools

  2. The lack of suitable opportunities for sleep for truckies, rest areas, stopping bays and green reflector bays

  3. Changes done for road safety that make things worse – Mackenzie River rest area, Capella and Junee Road intersection. Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has installed signs stopping traffic entering from the west

  4. BP Paget – how can a government body allow a truck stop on a major highway to have only five truck bays?

  5. A fair go from police, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) – education before enforcement

  6. Caravans and trucks. 

My closing comment (and I am pushing this wherever I get the chance) was that I do not believe we are recognised for the lives we save. We’re only found guilty in the media for the ones we may take and mostly they’re not the fault of the truckie.

I was given a good hearing, took part in the panel session and hope there will be changes to follow. The NHVR, TMR and other bodies were there and listened and replied as needed. Others even commented on the format and want to steal it for use in other states and jurisdictions. I will follow up and keep in touch with those who made it happen and try to keep them honest.

Bad press

Having missed the Transport for NSW Regional Freight Forum in Dubbo, I was then able to attend the one in Narrabri. Again, there has been a change in Transport For NSW. Yes, it has taken a long time and cost me a lot of hair. Others have also pushed and pushed.

They are listening, they are inviting some of us and giving us a say and then acting on that. I even managed to speak with the mayor and ask will they reconsider allowing us to park beside Maccas again, but we will have to do our part. We will see!

Too much of the press we get is bad. Yes, sometimes it is meant to show us someone else’s failing so then we can change things, but most of the time it gets out to everyone else and they all think we are all a bunch of wankers.

Please, before you post something, laugh and ridicule someone else, remember the screw-ups you made when you were learning, not just the ones you got caught out for, but the ones you managed to hide or hide from. It is much harder to do now, don’t you agree?

We finally have some specific funding for truck rest areas from the new government. It’s the most ever while I have been on the road and it must be directed and used to help drivers and not controlled by those who will never sleep in such sites, let alone rely on them to stay safe on the road.

Now those who have built us a stopping bay somewhere will say they have done their job and provided us somewhere to stop. But why are most at the bottom of the hill, around a corner or in a position that you would only stop there if you simply can’t go on because you are concerned another poor tired driver may run into you as you are often only less than a metre from the roadway?

1 rest area parking owd Nov 20.jpg

Many bays on the Peak Downs Highway are at the bottom of the hill, some on the Pacific are around corners. It’s a real thrill if you pull out in a loaded truck at 4km/h and two loaded trucks come round that corner. There must be a national standard for stopping bays, not just put in when someone sticks a pin on a map and then say, “we have them”.

Ignorant detractors

I had a driver call me a legend – in my own mind. He has his view and is entitled to it but in the last two months, some while on workers comp for my shoulder, I have given up two weeks of my time for industry events. So, what you do say? What have you done? This was the question posed to my detractor. Funny that he had no answer.

Join an association because without numbers we are still, to many, just whinging truckies. Yes, I would like you to join the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA). It will cost you $10 a month and you can then hassle me close up.

You can join NatRoad or your state association or Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association or the union, but join one because if you don’t the few of us who try will burn out or give up when ridiculed after wondering why we bothered.

Yes, I am a bit down, but I have not given up yet. There are times when the hundreds of hours you put in will still see someone complain about what you do. Doing it alone is hard and often frustrating, the cost to family and you is often unseen and no one else cares. So why do it? Because I want you and me to both come home in one piece.

Merry Christmas and a ‘Trucking Good New Year’!  

*ROD HANNIFEY, a transport safety advocate, has been involved in raising the profile of the industry, conducting highway truck audits, the Blue Reflector Trial for informal parking bays on the Newell, the ‘Truckies on Road Code’, the national 1800 number for road repairs proposal, and the Better Roadside Rest Areas Group. Rod is the current president of the NRFA. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail
rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit
www.truckright.com.au

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