No rest for the worthy

By: Rod Hannifey

We have our truck stop dining facilities back, but there’s still a way to go for adequate rest areas

No rest for the worthy
Trev the truckie knows what's up


Thanks to the government, the Australian Trucking Association, the Transport Workers Union, NatRoad and the National Road Freighters Association (and if I left anyone out sorry) for the exemption allowing us to eat in a roadhouse. I did a couple of radio interviews too, but we would all have got sick and far less healthy if we had to eat take-away for the next two months or more. It is easy to say they overlooked us and with the current environment, not only it is a big ask to change the world in a month and get it all right, in hindsight what you think should have happened is always better than what did.

Another group overlooked may well be the vanners who live on the road fulltime. With the caravan parks now closed, those who do not have a home to go to, where do they go? They may have travelled round doing the fruit picking most others won’t do and so who will do that now? So many questions and so few answers.

Berserk behaviour

One long time truck stop attendant, having had a couple of blokes go ballistic when they could not sit for a meal, said they are the one percent and you get them in every group. He went on to say that the vast majority of customers, including those in cars, have shown perhaps more respect and recognition for his job than normal. While he said one of the berko fellas mentioned above may have had a bad day (and others may well have made it even worse), most truckies do the right thing.

Being denied toilets though must stop. We can’t have a porta-potty in the cab like a VicRoads fellow suggested to me years ago, and we don’t have cabs like in the United States for a kitchen and shower, so we need facilities on the road.

How can anyone expect you to visit their site, carry and deliver their freight, wait sometimes hours to get loaded with no facilities and then refuse you the right to use a toilet? If they can’t or won’t clean them for their own staff, do they expect us to hold it for hours, or do we just pee in the driveway or simply squat (only if you have your own paper of course)?

(Dear editor, do we need a name and shame list printed here or will you accept nominees?)

Those in offices have all the facilities they need, but simply forget about us. Why not then go the whole hog and say if you want us to load and deliver your product, then for OH&S reasons, we should be able to do it under cover, out of the sun and the wind or rain. Their workers are mostly on forklifts or watching us get soaking wet in the rain, but they then have the chance to get dry or have a shower. If you are in the dust and dirt as in some sites, we have to get loaded and get going to deliver their freight. Why is it so?

Full up signs

It is good to see the Truck Rest Area Vehicle Information System (TRAVIS) project finally working on the southbound section of the Hume in Victoria. It seems like years (it is) since we were told New South Wales would trial one system – a phone app that only worked for those with it. It had other flaws, including scaring many blokes into believing they would be captured in rest areas and that Victoria would spend their part of the $4 million-plus on these signs to tell us how many spaces were free in six rest areas.

I did ring and chase VicRoads a couple of times over the ensuing years to be told they were having problems with the sensors, but now it is working. However, what if you are travelling down the Hume tired and you see the sign, ‘full, no spaces’? At Chiltern particularly, when we got all that money spent to get only one more space in the upgrade, I have seen 20 B-doubles in there and yet the sign only covers the 10 spots. What I am asking again, and did at the time, are we getting value for the money spent? I said they should have spent that money on more rest areas and helped save tired drivers then, instead of now years down the track we have a flash system that could send a tired driver on because he read the sign, but there was room for him.

Of course the next step would have been to include us in the process so we actually got what we needed, not what someone thought we needed. We now have a set of guidelines for heavy vehicle rest areas and yes, we do need to get people to read and understand them, but we need a national rest area strategy, not a piecemeal ‘we might build one here this year’ plan that will never deliver what we need, to safely and suitably manage our fatigue. 

Thia question has been asked for years by those with more knowledge and skill than me. Why does everything we need and use get designed, controlled and unfortunately often botched (or at the very least have less than good value delivered) by those who will never use any of the things we require for our safety and amenity? Perhaps in this climate of us being recognised as an essential service, we can gently ask to be more included in such projects.


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