I need a wee

By: Scotty Douglas

With news that truck platooning is coming to WA, Scotty Douglas considers where his dignity will go should nature call

I need a wee
While technology brings a number of improvements for drivers, Scotty Douglas ponders how it will work in reality. (Cartoon by John Allison).


There comes a point where no amount of wiggling, squirming or leg crossing will make a difference. At the end of the day, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

Call it laziness, but I’ve always resented making an unscheduled pit stop. We all have our favourite wee stops. Usually a parking bay at the top of a hill where you can get back up to speed without too much in the way of cog swapping.

One of the disadvantages of existing on a diet made up largely of complex carbohydrates and caffeine is that it makes me wee, especially in winter. And nobody pays me enough to try and wee in a bottle while on the move and anyway, the price of failure is a little nasty. So when nature calls I’ll answer as soon as possible.

Which can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. I try and be civilised and use a toilet block rather than lurk in the bushes beside the truck. But sometimes there’s not a toilet block to use. One afternoon, with no other alternative in sight I pulled up in a nice country roadside area and began writing my name in the dust several times over.

Unfortunately, while I was mid-stream the local school bus showed up and pulled and disgorged a bunch of high school kids. It made for some fancy footwork on my part! The kids yelling at me out of the bus seemed to find it amusing anyway.

And that’s where I struggle with the concept of platooning. The idea of platooning is that a whole line of trucks effectively lock onto each other using radar and slipstream their way up the highway.

Each truck tucks into the other’s slipstream reducing fuel burn and takes up less space on the highway. The trucks effectively talk to each other and the drivers get a video display of the road ahead inside the cab as they sit in the driver’s seat and buy stuff on eBay. Or maybe watch funny animal memes. Or update their Facebook status.

The trucks can potentially be less than one second behind each other as the truck essentially drives itself using lane departure cameras to keep between the lines and radar cruise to stay with the truck in front. This isn’t the stuff of fiction; it’s here already.  Platooning has been trialed extensively in Europe and Western Australia has just signed up for a trial.

After a close call I had one night recently I’m not actually complaining. I was overtaking a car park when all of a sudden it lurched across the white line at me. I had to take a little drive half on the dirt shoulder before I got around the moron.

As the truck in question wobbled around in its lane though I could see the glow of a laptop computer open on the dashboard. I do not want my last words in this world to be PMSL.

But what I really want to know is, what happens if you need to use the loo while you’re platooning?

All of a sudden new technology means that you can happily sit there drinking a drum of coffee as you stare at the back doors of the truck in front. Surely you can’t expect everyone to pull up just because you need to go?

I’ve worked with some guys that pride themselves on the size of their bladders. It almost seemed to be a macho statement. One guy in particular seemed to be an actual bladder on legs, as much for what came out of his mouth when he spoke as for his ability to seemingly drive from Melbourne to Brisbane without needing to relive himself.

So what happens when you’re stuck in a platoon with this guy at the front?! Clearly you send a message to the rest of the platoon that you’re dropping out for a toilet stop. So then they all keep going and you have to explain to the boss why you dropped out of the platoon and as a consequence used more fuel? Or the whole platoon stops and hangs shit on you while you go? And could you even fit a platoon of B-doubles in a parking bay anyway?

Maybe the driver of the future will wear adult nappies to maximise drive time? Or maybe platooning prime movers will be fitted with toilets enabling the driver to go while on the move? I don’t know about you but I really wouldn’t want to be sitting on the crapper with my pants around my ankles at 100km/h when a steer tyre blows. And I certainly wouldn’t want the legacy of last night’s curry wafting around the cab either!

I’m all for technology and efficiency just not at the expense of a driver’s dignity. As it stands currently there’s already a lack of clean amenities and decent parking areas on Australian highways. And as I’ve said before, I’m not pissing in a bottle for anyone who isn’t a doctor!  



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