Archive, Industry News

Truck rest stop squeeze a disgrace

The lack of suitable rest stops not only adds to driver fatigue but could lead to a work diary breach

 

On a recent trip back from Central Queensland, I found three ‘stopping bays’ all in a row. And I mean one after the other. So three within one kilometre!

Now that must be nice for the third vehicle (and they were barely big enough for a B-double if that) to be able to stop when the first two were full. We have been asking for more and better rest areas for years and this has at least, until recently, been generally ignored because they are not important to those who fund them. How many pollies or bureaucrats will ever sleep in one?

We have begged and pleaded and explained our need to get decent rest and sleep. If we do not do so as prescribed in the work diary, then we can, and will, be fined later on. Little has changed.

Getting them funded and then built was the first problem, getting them where we want them was the next, then getting them designed and built so they were of use to get that decent sleep was the last.

I am sure you have all seen the absolute perfection of the truck rest area on the Hume Highway (so just a little road, not busy or important) at Conroy’s Gap. What a fantastic spot. Spend nearly a million dollars and build a truck rest on a 45-degree slope. To be fair, there is about 10 per cent of it nearly flat at the bottom. When I rang six to eight times to find someone who would discuss it and finally asked, “Could you sleep in your bed if it was on a 45-degree angle?” I was told I was being a smart arse. Eventually my calm and reasonable demeanour did get a reasoned response of that he would look at it and get back to me.

When I got that call, I asked: “So you do agree there is a problem and how are you going to fix it?” I was told it can’t be fixed, so we agreed they had just thrown away a million dollars (though not with any real concern). I was told ‘we’ should make sure it didn’t happen again. Believe you me, I have tried and perhaps failed.


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But now, still with not one highway meeting the minimum number or standard of truck rest areas agreed by most, we have every separate council and jurisdiction putting up stopping bays willy-nilly. There will be 20 bays (mostly too small, either unsigned or badly signed or with great big signs, that probably cost more than the bay) in 50 kilometres, then nothing for hundreds, or even worse, two or three in a row.

Money misspent

Where does the money come from, who decides where and what size they are? It is almost as if the thought is: “Damn, we have unspent money here – put some stopping bays in and use it up so we don’t lose it next year,” without any real consideration as to whether they are effective, suitable or in a place where they are needed.

If all this money is available, why the hell do we not have enough truck bays still? Why is there no national standard for the design and placement of such bays? There’s the money spent on the three mentioned at the start, or the two you can throw a stone between north of Roma, or the 15 completely unmarked grass ones north of Emerald or all the others put in that are too small for most trucks. It’s simply wasting money that could build decent truck bays and save drivers’ lives.

If that effort had been co-ordinated, if there had been industry consultation, we could have had decent and useful truck bays that gave drivers a place to get good sleep, not a space two inches off the fog-line where you get no sleep. We could have had them spread out and saved lives and made sure drivers did not have to drive tired, to find somewhere to get decent sleep and not be fatigued or fined or both.

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Last year I pursued a number of road agencies raising this question. And what has happened? Nothing! We are wasting even more money on more stopping bays. How the hell do we get them to listen? We all know our lives are not valued and this is a perfect example. ‘Don’t drive tired (or we will fine you and hold you liable for any crash) but don’t expect us to listen or care.’

There have been some small efforts made, but again, look at the Gatton road train pads – no toilets. Look at the truck rest area at Chiltern, a spend of $800,000 dollars to go from five marked and four informal to 10 marked. Now, you can’t get away from anyone else. What do you think I was told when I raised that? “You are never happy, you whinging truckies.”

So I ask here, who will listen, who will step up and who in a position of authority will stop the waste, set national guidelines and help us to be safe on the road? I have had discussions with Transport for NSW, the Department of Infrastructure, the Australian Road Research Board, the Australian Trucking Association and other drivers. I can’t do it, so who can?

I am happy to talk to anyone and would welcome any support to solve this situation this year. It must not go on! We need sleep to be legal and safe and we need places, including in the cities, to do so. Will someone listen and act?

 

*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. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit www.truckright.com.au

Photography: Greg Bush

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