LET­TER OF THE MONTH

Owner Driver - - Your Say -

Pa­cific abuse

A tremen­dous amount of work has been done to im­prov­ing the Cun­ning­ham High­way to and from Bris­bane ex­cept for a sec­tion at Arat­ula on the War­wick side, which is very rough. Be­ing that I work from Perth two-up, on this sec­tion it is dif­fi­cult to get sleep while in the bunk.

Last week on the rare oc­ca­sion of go­ing solo for this jour­ney from Perth-Syd­ney-Bris­bane-Perth, I used the Pa­cific High­way to Bris­bane. While on the jour­ney north at night and with road works in progress and driv­ing to the preva­lent con­di­tions, one truck driver de­cided to get on his UHF on the Pa­cific High­way chan­nel and com­mence to abuse me for all other driv­ers to hear. I was try­ing to move left to get out of the way but with traf­fic on my left I was un­able to for a short time. No other driver said any­thing. Such a bad at­ti­tude by this one driver.

After this in­ci­dent the re­main­der of my jour­ney went smooth and I found that all other driv­ers were cour­te­ous and help­ful if I had to ask if I was un­sure of any­thing.

Ener­ico Nesci,

Joon­danna, WA

Recog­nis­ing Change

I have no­ticed there has been a great deal of bad press re­cently re­gard­ing trucks and the trans­port in­dus­try in gen­eral, with that stan­dard line by me­dia out­lets ‘cow­boy/rogue truck­ies’ used all too of­ten. I had been away from the high­way for five years man­ag­ing a tim­ber com­pany un­til the be­gin­ning of 2018. And in that short hia­tus I would like to point out some sig­nif­i­cant changes I have no­ticed in this time away in the trans­port in­dus­try.

Fast trucks are in the past – the idea of tam­per­ing with speed lim­iters is gone. Since I’ve re­turned to driv­ing I could hon­estly say I’ve only been ‘bagged up’ by a fast truck maybe twice in 40,000km, which is a mas­sive change. Safe-T-Cams and point-to­point cam­eras have done their job in that re­gard, giv­ing driv­ers the men­tal­ity of ‘what’s the point?’ But, with the Hume High­way fully up­graded and the Pa­cific at 80 per cent, driv­ers now make great times, which is also a ma­jor fac­tor.

‘Re­port on the dip­per?’ UHF calls like this and many more are the green or red light to let the truck go rolling off the hill and would be heard all through­out the day/night on every trip. You sim­ply don’t hear them any­more! Why? Again, bet­ter high­way in­fra­struc­ture and cam­era times, but also a higher po­lice pres­ence and GPS track­ing sys­tems have had an im­pact. I be­lieve driv­ers sim­ply aren’t will­ing to take the risk and gain next to noth­ing from do­ing so, apart from ma­jor fines and pos­si­bly be­ing shown the door by their em­ployer.

‘Go to bed’ – a term rarely heard in my early days of driv­ing. I’m amazed with the shift here. In the past, ‘call­ing it a night’ be­fore reach­ing your des­ti­na­tion would mean wak­ing up in an empty (sub­stan­dard) rest area and putting you well be­hind the eight ball for the re­main­der of the week. Now, th­ese rest ar­eas/road houses are full of trucks of a morn­ing.

Clearly the mes­sage of fa­tigue has got through to most truck­ing com­pa­nies and driv­ers with a great deal of pres­sure lifted off the driver. The con­sen­sus across the in­dus­try now I be­lieve is ‘noth­ing good hap­pens after mid­night’.

Pos­si­bly another ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor here (and for my­self per­son­ally) is the in­tro­duc­tion of ‘hours re­set’ in the work di­ary reg­u­la­tions. Ef­fec­tively, with the free­dom to use your work hours each day as you please with­out ef­fect­ing when you can/can’t work the fol­low­ing day has elim­i­nated the need to con­tinue driv­ing while fa­tigued, ‘fudg­ing’ work di­aries, but most im­por­tantly al­lows driv­ers to catch up on lost time dur­ing the day, rather than deep into the night.

Yes, I agree the in­dus­try is not per­fect, but it never can nor will be. Vari­ables in­clud­ing inad­e­quate road sys­tems, traf­fic de­lays, load­ing/un­load­ing de­lays and break­down/main­te­nance down­time will al­ways be a fac­tor.

And again, yes there still ex­ist what are re­ferred to as ‘cow­boy truck­ies’ on our roads, but from my ex­pe­ri­ence over the past decade, th­ese peo­ple have very much be­come the mi­nor­ity, yet are still ‘the story’ for most me­dia out­lets. Most driv­ers in my view are cur­rently do­ing the right thing and go largely un­no­ticed, which in most re­gards can ac­tu­ally be a very good thing.

Fi­nally, in­fra­struc­ture is the key to con­tinue this trend. With ma­jor up­grade road­works (and pro­posed) in Mel­bourne, Syd­ney and on the Pa­cific High­way, we are headed in the right di­rec­tion in re­gard to com­bat­ing fa­tigue, bet­ter travel times, less time on city roads and low­ered pres­sure to push to a des­ti­na­tion to avoid traf­fic chaos on routes like Pen­nant Hills Road, West­ern Ring Road and Monash Free­way – to name a few.

That be­ing said, a great deal more ef­fort and fund­ing needs to be al­lo­cated to more suit­able rest ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in NSW. The day truck driv­ers don’t need to weigh up whether to sleep or drive en­tirely, due to traf­fic con­di­tions out of their con­trol, will be the big­gest win for the in­dus­try and trans­port in gen­eral on the east coast – in my view!

I’ve got no doubt that the men­tal­ity of driv­ers, freight busi­nesses and the in­dus­try as a whole is shift­ing for the bet­ter. Per­haps it’s about time me­dia out­lets be­gan to take an un­bi­ased ap­proach to trans­port, stop ped­dling this ‘us against them’ regime and recog­nise and re­port pos­i­tiv­ity.

Tony Ful­ton,

Vic­to­ria

Con­grat­u­la­tions Tony. You are the fi­nal win­ner in our Truck­line com­pe­ti­tion. A Truck­line Truckie Bag is com­ing your way. – Ed.

“Yes, I agree the in­dus­try is not per­fect, but it never can nor will be.”

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