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OPINION: The rest area shortage is a big issue, but more so if suffering from sleep apnoea

When considering what has happened across the road transport sector over the past five years, one could easily conclude that our industry has not only gone through a period of massive change but a period of upheaval. With the many changes to the way chain of responsibility regulation is interpreted and how fatigue management of the driver continues to be the hot topic for many road safety policy makers, when will the policy makers stop trying to punish the driver for doing a five-star job.

When I entered the road transport industry at the tender age of 15 years old, all I saw was the possibility of being just like my grandfather. At this age I thought my grandfather had the best job in the world. Having a job that allowed him to see this fantastic country called Australia, was a job that I wanted. I was not aware that I was going to enter an industry that continues to be over-regulated while being okay for a driver to lose his weekly wage in the blink of an eye.

With my first ever job washing trucks for my late uncle, Robert Davis from RJ & S Davis Transport Toowoomba, all I knew was I was one step closer to being like my uncle Bob. Being employed to wash all available interstate trucks every weekend, not only allowed me to work with my uncle but it was the start that I needed to earn some basic working fundamentals from a young age.

With my Saturday pay being $10 plus all the loose change from the interstate drivers, I was rich in my eyes. With the money pot overflowing, I went on to by a brand-new pushbike. Over the next few years my uncle was good enough to teach me what an honest day’s work looked like and how a solid work ethic will take you places.

With many hot summer school holidays spent loading watermelons, destined for the Brisbane fresh food markets in Rocklea, it was quickly discovered that a university career was not going to be in my future.

With my school academic results looking more like a horror crime scene, my senior high school years were spent completing a school-based Certificate II in Business Administration traineeship. With the successful completion of the above traineeship, completing year 12 and the need for my uncle to close the business due to a sudden diagnosis of cancer, I found my road transport career taking a slight left-hand turn.


With the passing of uncle Bob 18 months later, I ended up taking a position with my immediate family’s parcel contracting business. The ongoing work gave me time to really assess what I really wanted to do with my life.

Due to the constant pain of losing my uncle, I exited the family business to work with another multinational road transport company. This allowed me to move toward obtaining the ultimate multi-combination driver’s licence.

As I had been given many great opportunities throughout my action-packed road transport career, at no time would I ever say that I am ungrateful for whom I have met and the experiences I have had. I have seen many fantastic places around this great land we call Australia, but I have seen many unsavoury and horrific heavy vehicle accidents that should have never happened. With many high impact heavy vehicle accidents resulting in the loss of life of a brother and/or sister of the highways, our industry leaders and elected Federal Members of Parliament continue to struggle in being able to provide real life saving answers.

Our industry continues to struggle with not having enough well-equipped heavy vehicle parking bays available for our professional drivers. It is the great work from all National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) board members that continues to work hard in this space. With several policy makers within the Transport for NSW wanting to listen to us, it is with hope that we will see many great changes soon.

Sleepless shock

With the dreaded renewal of my driver’s basic fatigue management medical fast approaching, I thought this process was going to be a simple and easy process, being that I have just popped over the slim age of 42. I was quickly advised that I needed to go and do a sleep test for the medical to be approved. With the knowledge that I do snore from time to time when at home, I was not too concerned with what the results could be. With the sleep test ordered and completed in very quick fashion, the results did not go in my favour.

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With my wife in tow, I was now diagnosed with critical obstructive sleep apnoea with 146 episodes per hour being recorded by the sleep testing equipment. With the doctor telling me not to stress, I had heaps of questions that needed to be answered. Thoughts of how I was going to continue to support my family without a licence kept running through my head. As far as I knew, if you have sleep apnoea the transport department will take your licence off you.

With my doctor starting to tell me what the game plan will be to ensure that my heavy vehicle licence is not going to be cancelled or suspended, I started to relax. With clear instructions and a few goals being set, I was referred to a sleep tech for the fitment of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. With positive results being realised really quick with an average of below five being recorded on a regular basis, the health benefits are out of its world. With more energy throughout my day and more energy to share with my wife, life in my household is looking up.

RELATED ARTICLE: CPAP Direct offers sleep therapy for the road

As my sleep apnoea journey is still in its early days, it is through my own research that I can tell you that your life on the highway will not end if you are diagnosed with sleep apnoea. With several health and lifestyle changes that may need to be implemented, the winner will be you and your family at home.

Please keep safe on the road my brothers and sisters of the highway and please make sure you get home safe to your loved ones.

*MARCUS COSGROVE, as well as a being an advocate for mental health, is a passionate road safety advocate working with the National Road Freighters Association as a board member and social media officer.

Photography: Greg Bush

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