Gamble of the Two-Up system
Laws are under a review
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THE National Transport Commission (NTC) has withdrawn an attempt to change legislation regulating two-up truck driving.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.
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.