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Truck Drivers deserve a fair go

OPINION: Electronic work diaries can help alleviate the risk of unnecessary and incorrect out-of-hours fines

A new year is upon us and as you read this I believe the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) conference at Wagga Wagga will be underway or completed. I’ll report on it for next month.

Electronic work diaries (EWDs) or as known and used in the US, electronic logging devices (ELDs), were mandated there in December 2018 and have now become mandatory in Canada as well even if you are not based there. They were to solve all the industry’s problems. Have you heard that before, or does it at least sound familiar to propose a solution driven and controlled by those who do not have to live by and under it?

There was a report released recently saying it has not actually reduced crashes as promised, but it has certainly put more pressure on drivers and on the lack of truck rest areas. I have spoken of Jason’s Law, where a trucker died after being robbed and killed for the $6 he had on him when he had nowhere else to park and so parked in an abandoned truck stop for a sleep. His wife fought for years and finally got the law brought in across the US, but they still do not have enough truck stops in many places and, once your EWD says you are out of time, it will hold you to account.

When EWDs were first mooted here many years ago, I put my hand up and was on the advisory panel, possibly the only driver involved. I am sure you are all not shocked and surprised! I was then told I could not participate in the second stage trial because I already had a device in the truck that was a trial towards EWDs.

I also vehemently pushed that the law for EWDs should not come in until the current law (of the time and this is nearly 10 years ago) was “fixed” as we were then and now still copping fines for bullshit things that have nothing to do with road safety.

It all went quiet for many years and then it came back with little real industry consultation or involvement. But we had some help from the National Transport Commission (NTC) and its then CEO Paul Retter who, after a trip with me, stood up for some common sense and, to his credit, he did (after my specific request) also provide funding for the update of the truck rest area design guidelines.

At our last NRFA conference and even at the Trucking Australia convention we attended, I asked National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) CEO Sal Petroccitto how to fix the problem of these fines. His answer was to get an EWD. Now even then, while there have been a number available for a few years, some are tied to the vehicle and, like all things, better versions and efforts follow over time.

Coming back from the last shoulder surgery, I looked at a few and have gone over to Hubfleet. Yes, I provide feedback to them and again, if you join up through the NRFA page, the NRFA will earn a small fee from them but thus far I have found it good to use.

Previously, I’ve had to write times in my logbook and then argue with officers that I refuse to have them steal my time when I stop for 25 minutes but the logbook will only give me 15 minutes break, or when I stop at 3.20 I must then have 25 minutes to get a 15 minute break. Now I don’t lose one minute. It will provide an alert when I am coming up to breach time, so you don’t find out after you pulled up that you have gone over. Thus far it is better than a logbook and near the same price per year.

I still want to see the Heavy Vehicle National Law review completed and many of the things in it addressed and the life on the road made easier and fairer. But how long has it been now and when will it ever happen? With all the effort and money gone into it, we are still waiting for a single change or improvement.

Substandard highways

Then there are our roads. It is good to hear there is funding being made available, but will we get the value from it? Having been down the reopened Newell, again I will say that if the work had been started after the floods of five years ago, it would not have been so bad or closed for so long this time.

It’s funny how we can see the work on the inland rail further north with so many culverts and water flow space that it will be unlikely to ever close, yet our one national highway gets washed away and closed for months at a time, three out of six years.

Then I went into Melbourne and they are working on the Tullamarine tunnel. There were five rear bump trucks, all the drivers were sitting and playing on their phones with not one person working within a kilometre. Surely good value roadworks there.

It is our lives at risk on the road. None of us want to see roadworkers hurt and, without them, we won’t get any roadworks or repairs done, but there must be some oversight and value. How many of the new overtaking lanes on the Newell have failed – and more than once? How can spending money badly to do half-arsed patching week after week and month after month when the holes come back again and again be real value when we then hit them again and again? What will happen when we start sending the bills to the road authorities for damage to the trucks?

You all know we as the drivers don’t count, do we? 

 

 

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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