One driver’s bat­tle for a real rest stop

Ad­vo­cate is not de­terred by push­back

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Kirstin Payne kirstin.payne@bi­grigs.com.au

ROD Han­nifey has been fight­ing an up­hill bat­tle for close to two decades.

As a full-time truckie and part-time road safety ad­vo­cate, it was never go­ing to be easy but now, as he draws closer to 20 years on the Blue Re­flec­tor cam­paign trail, he ad­mits he is frus­trated.

Why? As most driv­ers would agree, our rest stops are in a sham­bles.

De­spite a na­tional road safety in­quiry in 2004, and the pro­duc­tion of The Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion’s na­tional rest area guide­lines in 2005, Rod said real ac­tion had never been taken.

The now 13-year-old rec­om­men­da­tions, which in­cluded the devel­op­ment of a truck park­ing bay within 20-30km of each town­ship and a min­i­mum standard of rub­bish bins, shade and all-weather pave­ments, just haven’t been acted on.

In­stead the Blue Re­flec­tor move­ment, the sim­ple mark­ing tech­nique for in­for­mal rest ar­eas, serves as a Band-Aid on the bro­ken in­fra­struc­ture sys­tem.

This is an ini­tia­tive Rod said wouldn’t be needed, if the gov­ern­ment fol­lowed its own rec­om­men­da­tions and placed an em­pha­sis on the needs of driv­ers.

“The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is yet to re­spond to any of the rec­om­men­da­tions from this in­quiry and has let down all mo­torists and truck driv­ers,” Rod said as he filled out his log­book, ready to leave the Bris­bane de­pot.

“If we want to talk about fa­tigue, we want to look at fa­cil­i­ties for driv­ers.

“Of course the peo­ple that build them don’t use them so it’s a hard fight to get what we need.”

The jour­ney

IT HAD al­ready been a long day in the De­cem­ber heat for Rod, who was on his fi­nal few loads be­fore park­ing up for Christ­mas.

But as a man on a mis­sion, he had asked Big Rigs to come along with him for the ride, from Bris­bane to Moree, Wee Waa and Dubbo to cap­ture just a snap­shot of the loom­ing crisis and help set a fire un­der the bums of the pow­ers-that-be.

“It could be said to be re­spon­si­ble for some road deaths and in­juries, by launch­ing an in­quiry and then do­ing noth­ing,” he said an hour into the jour­ney as we pass the War­rill View park­ing bay.

A stop Rod sees as a per­fect ex­am­ple of gen­eral ig­no­rance when it comes to the road trans­port com­mu­nity.

“It’s been here for a long time, it is an old bit of road. But they did a ma­jor re­build­ing pro­gram about 18 months ago,” Rod said.

“I rang them and said ‘while you are there, surely you can fix a few pot­holes, add some shade and do some re­pairs’.

Not to be de­terred, Rod con­tin­ued to push, and it wasn’t long be­fore some­one called him back.

“I was told the park­ing bay would be re­turned to its orig­i­nal state,” he said.

How­ever in­stead of the orig­i­nal as­phalt, al­beit pot-holed sur­face, driv­ers were left worse off than be­fore.

“It’s just dirt now. You drive in there and you can’t

leave your win­dow open, and the poor bug­ger that is in the cab sleep­ing is go­ing to be cov­ered in two inches of dust,” he said.

“Not only did they not re­turn it to its orig­i­nal form, they made the bloody thing worse.”

It was a sim­i­lar story for the next few hours and the vet­eran driver de­scribed each bump, pothole and un­of­fi­cial park­ing bay along the route.

Each cul­vert had a story, and each scrag­gly stop with just enough room for a sin­gle B-dou­ble was in­tro­duced like an old friend.

By Goondi­windi we had passed less than half-a-dozen of­fi­cial bays with min­i­mum shade and spo­radic fa­cil­i­ties – the green/blue re­flec­tor bays bridg­ing the gap to of­fer a lit­tle refuge to those who may need an emer­gency stop or rest.

“If you don’t know the road and don’t know where is safe, the green re­flec­tors help out,” Rod said.

“One day we might have enough of­fi­cial truck rest ar­eas not to need the un­of­fi­cial bays, but we are a long way off from that now.”

The next day we stop out­side Pil­liga Vil­lage, to in­spect one of the marked green re­flec­tor park­ing bays.

“There is not an­other rest area from here to Coon­am­ble, well over an hour and a half off the top of my head,” Rod said.

“Find­ing a space where shade is avail­able is also a big thing, as it is of­ten an over­sight but some­thing we des­per­ately need es­pe­cially dur­ing the day.”

Out­side our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, the TIV truck passed a her­ring­bone or side-by-side of­fi­cial stop. Rod shakes his head. “Th­ese can make it im­pos­si­ble to get de­cent sleep with trucks pulling up, drop­ping maxi brakes and then slam­ming doors to go to the toi­let, only to start up the truck again, all less than one me­tre from both sides of the cabin in which you are try­ing to sleep,” he said.

“You get to sleep but get wo­ken a num­ber of times and end up just ly­ing there un­til I could legally leave.”

So what next?

DE­SPITE the two days of dis­ap­point­ing find­ings, Rod re­mains up­beat.

“There are other ideas worth pur­su­ing; you can’t of­fer a pol­lie a prob­lem and not have a plan to fix it,” he said.

But the so­lu­tion is go­ing to take more than one man.

“There are many road­side stock­pile sites used for a short pe­riod each year or only ev­ery sec­ond or third year when resur­fac­ing work is car­ried out in that area,” Rod said.

“I be­lieve that with some for­ward-plan­ning of any new stock­pile sites so that they are both suit­ably placed for use of road crews, but also for use by truck driv­ers.”

Sec­ond was smarter de­sign.

“De­sign­ing for use of both trucks and cars will give a bet­ter re­turn on cost with less out­lay in build­ing sep­a­rate sites for cars and trucks,” he said.

“As an in­dus­try we can’t be quiet and shrug our shoul­ders.

“We are the ones that know what has to be done.”

PHOTO: KIRSTIN PAYNE

CAM­PAIGNER: Road safety ad­vo­cate Rod Han­nifey is at the end of his tether.

PHOTO: KIRSTIN PAYNE

SO­LU­TION: Rod Han­nifey said the so­lu­tion will take more than one man.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Truck­ies wish­ing to sleep at night will not be dis­turbed by those stop­ping for short breaks.

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