Opinion

Three steps to heaven for the transport industry

OPINION: If a trio of realistic requests were answered, it would be a welcome relief for the long-haul driver.

As you read this month’s issue of OwnerDriver I will have turned 66 on the fourth of this month. It’s been 30 years on the Newell and on interstate, so with the other bits – local and intrastate – it’s well over six million kilometres. My first job at age 15 was as local office boy and loader in Coorparoo, Brisbane for Tony Newton Transport running to Mt Isa. Tony then sold to Frigmobile, set me up a job there and I started in the office, went onto the docks loading trucks and forkie in the coldstores, then started driving local. I moved to drive for Inghams Chickens doing mainly KFC stores for 12 months then to Luya Julius, where I started as a courier driver and ended up running the container park, before going into fuel tankers. All a long time ago.

I am going to contact each state trucking body plus a few others and ask for their support for my presents. Nothing too flash, I don’t want them to buy me a new rig, though I did watch Smokey and the Bandit again recently and wish I could say I had done it all “for the money and the fun”, but that would be too simple.

I have three requests, and yes, I have sought support for some of these things over the years, received a “Yes, we will support that” only to find it is still only me pushing. These are simple stroke of the pen things, but I will be told they are too hard. But laws can be changed when someone with enough weight wants it done. So does that mean we don’t count?

I could ask for decent sleepers like in the United States, but they too still can’t supply enough rest areas for trucks, even though they have Jason’s Law in place. I could ask for all police fines under the Heavy Vehicle National Law to be reviewed by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) for a fairer go. I could ask for the NHVR to solve all our problems. Each of these are worthy and I will keep asking, but so far they too are all too hard.

So, to the three presents I seek. Change one word in the current work diary, “relevant” to “last” as to where they count forward from. One single word that entraps drivers and even though they may be perfectly fit to drive, cannot. Yes, we have a duty of care (and it is now written on every logbook page) to not drive while fatigued, but until they have robots or autonomous trucks, we need to be able to drive while fit and sleep when tired. And we don’t just need a place to stop, we need somewhere that will provide a good sleep opportunity.

Before B-doubles entered the scene, you were allowed so much on the steer, the drive and the trailer. You added them up and that was your legal gross. Since B-doubles arrived you can’t do that because someone in authority wanted to put in another catch point. With a B-double you can’t add all the group grosses and get your gross. No, there is a discount but why, can anyone tell me? So, if they change the gross for a B-double to the total of the grosses, we would get 500kg more capacity. Wow! Earth shattering I know, but it would make complying and educating some drivers so much easier. 

Council parking

The third is much bigger – a national truck rest area strategy. Yes, we have the current steering committee of which I am a member and the guidelines for applications have just been released, so we are making some progress there. However, the change we need to make in local councils for parking in industrial areas, the simple yet superbly effective use of the thousands of stockpile sites and getting the money and placement and design of ‘stopping bays’ fixed would all make a serious difference. But I and/or the National Road Freighters Association (few others seem really interested in these as solutions) cannot fix it alone.

Of course, if I won Lotto I would be able to commit more time and effort and annoy the crap out of so many more people, but I haven’t won it yet and can’t retire yet either, so have to keep working. As hard as it might be to imagine, work gets in the way of doing all this industry stuff. So, I have asked the NHVR for the first two and for help with the third. I have tried other associations for other stuff, they said ‘yes’, but little changed, so still trying. Some say I am very trying!

So yes, these are all presents that industry would gain more from, but after working on them now for nearing 25 years, it would be nice to see them achieved. I have the truck I want, new trailers are coming, yes there is not much spare time and the roads are buggered and the issues are still the same. But I can truthfully say I have tried to improve things, but even then, accept some drivers’ views that things have not changed much or certainly not enough.

I have two things I need for the truck and am working on them, but needing to be custom built to fit, will cost more than I can justify, so they are on the ‘when I can’ list. There are a couple of bits of bling being done and then just the cupboards, which my mate Tom is looking after.

I have to sort trailer curtains and component suppliers so will be chasing all that soon and looking forward to the whole rig being completed and ready to go for another four years.  

*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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