Gam­ble of the Two-Up sys­tem

Laws are un­der a re­view

Big Rigs - - SPECIAL REPORT - Bruce Honey­will

❝Bot­tom

line was, I’d take my turn at the wheel after day­light with­out any sleep at all. Whether it was my para­noia about the sec­ond driver or his in­ex­pe­ri­ence, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter.

THE Na­tional Trans­port Com­mis­sion (NTC) has with­drawn an at­tempt to change leg­is­la­tion reg­u­lat­ing two-up truck driv­ing.

States and Ter­ri­to­ries have re­fused to ac­cept the com­mis­sion’s pro­pos­als to al­low a two-up driver a more easy tran­si­tion from two-up to solo driv­ing.

NTC’s Project Di­rec­tor Re­form Main­te­nance, Jeremy Wolter, says the push­back from the ju­ris­dic­tions op­er­at­ing un­der the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law in­di­cated there would be no chance that the changes would be ac­cepted.

“We could not show that there was not a fa­tigue risk (with the change) or that the risk would be re­duced,” Jeremy Wolter told Big Rigs.

NatRoad put the pro­posal to push for changes to the two-up driv­ing reg­u­la­tions to the NTC.

Un­der cur­rent reg­u­la­tions, a driver in a two-up driv­ing ar­range­ment must take an ex­tended seven hour sta­tion­ary rest pe­riod be­fore mov­ing to a solo driver ar­range­ment.

In the pro­posed NTC changes, a driver could go straight into a solo driv­ing regime as long as he or she had a pre­scribed five hour break in a mov­ing truck while in an ap­proved sleeper.

Two-up driv­ing has a long and con­tro­ver­sial his­tory with long haul driv­ing in Aus­tralia.

At its best, it is an ef­fi­cient and safe sys­tem to cover huge dis­tances in a safe and ef­fi­cient man­ner. At its worst it is dan­ger­ous and puts the two driv­ers and other road users at risk.

The dif­fer­ence? Some­thing far more ba­sic than what is be­ing dis­cussed in the de­bate over pro­posed leg­isla­tive change; that is the re­la­tion­ship, ex­pe­ri­ence and re­spect be­tween driv­ers.

At the safe end, two driv­ers who can work close to­gether and have mu­tual re­spect for each other’s skills, can make the two-up sys­tem work.

Hus­band and wife owner-driver teams are of­ten seen as work­ing well in the two-up sys­tem where the cou­ple works to­gether to keep their one-truck oper­a­tion run­ning suc­cess­fully.

With em­ployed driv­ers this is cer­tainly not al­ways the case.

Usu­ally there is a drop in take-home pay for two-up driv­ers at the end of a week or a trip com­pared to a driver on the same run driv­ing solo.

The sec­ond fail­ing of the two-up sys­tem is the in­creased fa­tigue on one of the team when the other driver is, in fact or per­cep­tion, in­ex­pe­ri­enced com­pared to his trav­el­ling part­ner.

I have been forced to drive two-up sev­eral times in my ca­reer as a truck driver and it has never been a good ex­pe­ri­ence for me.

In at­tempts to cre­ate a safer ‘look’ to the road-us­ing pub­lic, the shiny bums of large prime freight for­ward­ing cor­po­ra­tions de­cide to demand a two-up sys­tem from their smaller sub­con­trac­tors.

In my case when pulling road trains from SE Queens­land to Dar­win and back, I would nor­mally do the trip solo and main­tain, more or less, le­gal times.

Then one day you front up to work to be given a two-up part­ner who had lit­tle road train ex­pe­ri­ence, cer­tainly not on the 3500km haul to Dar­win.

The ex­am­ple I’m talk­ing about was ‘back in the day’, when there was a cur­few at Toowoomba and once hooked up you couldn’t pull out of Bros­gates un­til after 10pm.

We were not al­lowed to run out the ‘line’ through Dalby, Chin­chilla, Miles to Roma but had to fol­low the ‘crys­tal high­way’, the Con­damine High­way so named be­cause of all the bro­ken wind­screens be­side the nar­row strip of bi­tu­men.

So with the co-pilot in the bunk, I’d head out the first haul to­wards Roma.

Some­where in the early hours we’d do a driver change.

Tired, I’d slip into the bunk and close my eyes.

Lis­ten to the clash of gear cogs in the Mack triple-coun­ter­shaft 12-speed and lie there awake in the skinny lit­tle bunk of the R-Model.

Bot­tom line was, I’d take my turn at the wheel after day­light with­out any sleep at all.

Whether it was my para­noia about the sec­ond driver or his in­ex­pe­ri­ence, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter.

Two-up cre­ated a stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment where I could not get worth­while sleep.

This par­tic­u­lar stage of my ca­reer ended when I was im­pa­tiently wait­ing, at Clon­curry, for a co-driver to fin­ish show­er­ing and beau­ti­fy­ing him­self (I’d al­ready show­ered and was sit­ting at the wheel). I waited. I was cranky. I drove off head­ing for Dar­win re­joic­ing in the soli­tude.

They had to put old mate on a bus to get him back to Toowoomba and I was never asked to drive two-up again.

That sit­u­a­tion could never hap­pen to­day. They were hard days and you had to be pre­pared to back up your choices phys­i­cally.

But I cite that small ex­pe­ri­ence to show that stress be­tween two driv­ers, even to­day, can cause in­ad­e­quate sleep in at least one of the par­tic­i­pants and this cre­ates risk through poor fa­tigue man­age­ment ir­re­spec­tive of the leg­is­la­tion.

PHO­TOS: BRUCE HONEY­WILL

STRESS­FUL TIMES: I have been forced to drive two-up sev­eral times in my ca­reer as a truck driver and it has never been a good ex­pe­ri­ence for me.

At its worst it is dan­ger­ous and puts the two driv­ers and other road users at risk.

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