LETTER OF THE MONTH
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.
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.
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.”