­­Truck drivers endure poor unloading and rest stop conditions in the West

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner


Livestock and other truck drivers in WA need vastly better treatment from customers and the road authorities.

­­Truck drivers endure poor unloading and rest stop conditions in the West
Stephen Marley says the treatment of truck drivers needs to improve.

 

Truckies get a raw deal at a lot of customer sites, according to one of the biggest employers in the Western Australian trucking industry.

Stephen Marley is general manager of Marley’s Transport, a big grain, feed, fertiliser and livestock carter in the south of Western Australia, with more than 60 trucks (mostly Kenworths) and 150 trailers.

He’s also president of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia (LRTAWA) and chairman of the Australian Trucking Association’s Trucksafe accreditation program.

His concern about the customer treatment of drivers is directed mostly at saleyards and abattoirs in that state’s mighty agricultural south.

Marley says common problems at abattoirs and saleyards include delays, badly designed ramps that are hard to work with and are dangerous, obstacles to manoeuvring trailers, not enough room to back up, drivers having to unload themselves while the stockman goes home, and drivers getting drenched while stock are undercover.

"The animals often get better care and respect than the truck drivers," Marley says.

"The animal welfare act is as plain as day. You transport an animal that’s infirm – bang."

But what if a site stuffs a driver around, or has him or her wasting time for hours?

"It’s not really considered an issue," Marley says.

Meanwhile LRTAWA members have tragic tales of drivers pushing on to their deaths when there’s nowhere to stop, or a rest bay is full.

 

"The animals often get better care and respect than the truck drivers."

Posted by Owner Driver on Monday, 21 September 2015

 

"Our industry is screaming out for more places for drivers to rest," Marley says.

He says the LRTAWA has had a priority list of 10 proposed safety bays for years, but it’s been ignored by Main Roads WA.

Marley points out that the five successful projects in the current round of the federally subsidised Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP) are all in the eastern goldfields or the Pilbara.

"Everyone forgets about the agricultural regions," he laments.

Meanwhile, Marley says there is a "total lack" of rest areas for all types of drivers on the Great Northern Highway.

"You could go to a spot where you want to rest, and it’s full, so you’ve got to go to the next one, and it’s a long, long way to the next one. So you can’t plan."

Significantly, Main Roads WA appears to agree with much of Marley’s concern about rest areas.

"It is acknowledged that many rest areas were originally developed for light vehicles and the upgrades have not kept pace with the incremental increase in the size of heavy vehicles on WA roads," the department says in a response to Owner//Driver.

It says that under the HVSPP the Federal and Western Australian governments are each providing funds to build better roadside facilities. 

"The funds are being used to upgrade existing rest stops, build new rest stops and construct new layover bays, providing drivers with more opportunities to take a break or reconfigure their trailers and for oversize [and] over-mass loads to park up to allow other traffic to pass," the response says.

"Under the HVSPP, more than $20 million has been spent on improving heavy vehicle facilities in WA since 2008.

"As Mr Marley points out, the primary focus, particularly in recent years, has been directed at upgrading facilities on key arterial routes leading to/from the north of the state.

"This was in direct response to the surge in heavy vehicle traffic servicing the mining sector, but these upgrades also benefited other operators including livestock transporters.

"The next round of HVSPP funding is expected to be available in 2016 and Main Roads is working with the LRTAWA and the other members of the Heavy Vehicle Industry Consultative Group to identify priority sites recognising the different industry sectors have different views on the high priority locations."

You can read the full feature in the October edition of Owner//Driver magazine.

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