A day in the life of a truck driver

Big Rigs - - OPINION - IN­DUS­TRY AD­VO­CATE BEN MAGUIRE Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion CEO

“AND he sees the vi­sion splen­did of the sun­lit plains ex­tended, And at night the wond’rous glory of the ever­last­ing stars.”

These mag­i­cal words by Banjo Pater­son struck a chord with me early on in life and have in­spired many a day and night on the road for me ever since.

Sadly, much of my time now is spent in the “dingy lit­tle of­fice,” so I thought it was time to walk in the shoes of driv­ers and spend some time to bet­ter un­der­stand rest stop qual­ity and short­age which is be­com­ing a ma­jor is­sue for truck­ing.

Aus­tralia has the fifth biggest freight task in the world and con­trib­utes to nine per cent of our Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct, yet the ev­ery­day work­place for our driv­ers and op­er­a­tors is not up to stan­dard. I am not sure any­one seems fully aware.

Aus­troads re­leased their guide­lines for the pro­vi­sion of heavy ve­hi­cle rest area fa­cil­i­ties in early May. Although the re­port quotes two driv­ers in the con­sul­ta­tion sec­tion, it seems the driver com­mu­nity were not re­ally con­sulted, and the re­port re­flects this.

Once I got to the sec­tion where it states the best prac­tice and busiest fa­cil­i­ties ought to have toi­lets, shade, water and light­ing as de­sir­able as­sets, I be­gan to think it was on the wrong track. Surely in 2018 we should be pro­vid­ing these ba­sic hu­man rights as manda­tory items? It was when I got to the sec­tion sug­gest­ing that women driv­ers would likely ac­cept uni­sex toi­lets, I realised that this re­port was go­ing to miss the mark com­pletely.

So here I am road­side at the VC Par­tridge Rest area south of Sydney on a Thurs­day night. It was my turn to walk in the shoes of a truck driver and ex­pe­ri­ence for my­self what man­ag­ing fa­tigue is like in a “best prac­tice” truck rest area. As I sweat over my re­cent work diary entries, I am en­joy­ing my home made sand­wiched and think of the fam­ily.

It was an easy drive from Quean­beyan in the Volvo ATA Safety Truck. Hav­ing parked the truck and car­ried out an in­spec­tion on the trailer, I did a recce of the fa­cil­i­ties. There was one B-dou­ble parked close by and the driver was clearly camped up for a long rest break. Apart from the fre­quent car stops for toi­let breaks, there was not much else to re­port. The toi­lets were okay, and se­cure, although poorly lit.

I was be­mused that the truck park­ing (in a her­ring­bone pat­tern) was closer to the high­way traf­fic than the cars, en­hanc­ing the noise. Whilst typ­ing this blog, I am en­joy­ing some favourite songs on the stereo, though looked for­ward to the chal­lenge of sleep­ing while the heavy night traf­fic zoomed by.

Worksafe Aus­tralia sug­gests sound lev­els of less than 70 deci­bels for a work­place. It needs to be much qui­eter for de­cent and ef­fec­tive sleep. My trusty sound me­ter had al­ready bro­ken that level by peaks of over 90 when the jake brakes streamed past my cab. In this age of “fa­tigue fo­cus” to en­hance safety, I as­sert it is sim­ply not good enough to ex­pect heavy ve­hi­cle driv­ers to be held to ac­count for their fa­tigue man­age­ment when not be­ing pro­vided with fa­cil­i­ties to do so.

You’ll get no whing­ing from this camper, though I can re­port it took a cou­ple of hours to doze off in my noisy sleeper cab. I was wo­ken a few times by road noise and other driv­ers pulling in for their rest time. At 4.30am it was time to move on and re­flect on the ex­pe­ri­ence.

As I drove back to my (not so) dingy lit­tle of­fice, I won­dered what my day would look like if I had ten hours on the road ahead of me. In­stead, I re­treat to the con­fines of a pro­fes­sional of­fice work­place with clean toi­let and shower as ex­pected in all work­places. I can only won­der why this is not so for work­ers con­tribut­ing to such a vi­tal in­dus­try for our na­tion.

PHOTO: ALF WIL­SON

REST AREAS: A truck parked at a rest area at Wol­lon­gong in NSW on the Pic­ton Rd.

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