Fall­ing on deaf ears

The au­thor­i­ties con­tinue to ig­nore pleas for more truck rest ar­eas to be built on our ma­jor high­ways

Owner Driver - - Eyes On The Road - Rod Han­nifey

THE PHOTO on this page is of the Newell High­way at Trewilga, just south of Peak Hill. Well over 12 months ago work started on a new alignment to straighten one of the few twisty bits left on the Newell. At that time I rang the Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices’ (RMS) con­tact num­ber and asked what would hap­pen to the old road, sug­gest­ing it would be good for a truck rest area.

I rang them a num­ber of times dur­ing the time the work was un­der­way, again ask­ing for con­sid­er­a­tion for part of the old road to be used as a truck rest area. The first ex­cuse I was given was that the bridge at Hal­li­nan’s Creek had to be re­moved. Con­sid­er­ing we were all still driv­ing over it, this seemed a bit suss. Later, the next ex­cuse was that they be­lieved traf­fic would fol­low the old road.

We lost a pop­u­lar marked green re­flec­tor bay on the north­bound side and I again asked why we could not have at least one of the pos­si­ble five spots. The work was com­pleted in Fe­bru­ary and every one of the pos­si­ble sites was com­pletely torn up.

Yes, there is a ‘stop­ping bay’ on the south­bound side, but it is very near the road and so close to two of the pos­si­ble sites I could throw a rock to them.

I wrote to the NSW trans­port min­is­ter and also the local RMS de­tail­ing the lost sites with pho­tos, say­ing I be­lieved this was crim­i­nal negligence. We do not have enough rest ar­eas and, as the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (ATA) has just found in the bud­get pa­pers, only just over twothirds of the al­lo­cated fund­ing (though it is meant to be 50/50 funded by the states as well), was spent on rest ar­eas and trans­port safety projects.

FA­TIGUED YET PUN­ISHED

None of our pol­lies have any clue what it is like to need a sleep, a toi­let break or some­where to safely pull up. It has taken me 19 years of ef­fort just to get the Newell High­way done with green re­flec­tors as an in­terim mea­sure so we can see and safely use in­for­mal sites be­cause we do not have enough for­mal ones.

There are more trucks, more cars and more car­a­vans, yet we have seen bug­ger all done to catch up on the deficit. There is no recog­ni­tion of the fact we are con­tin­u­ally told to man­age our fa­tigue and se­verely pun­ished if we don’t abide by ‘their’ rules, yet all those in power have toi­lets and rest rooms on every floor and food out­lets they can walk to. We can’t even get a bit of dirt marked with re­flec­tors.

I have re­ceived a re­ply say­ing that the Newell had enough rest ar­eas in that sec­tion. How­ever, a sec­tion of the old high­way at Trewilga has since been iden­ti­fied as a po­ten­tially suit­able green re­flec­tor site. Fol­low­ing a safety as­sess­ment, con­struc­tion is ex­pected to start later this year. How can they waste money tear­ing up pos­si­ble sites when we do not have enough and then say they don’t have the money to build new ones? Yet we find it is there, but still un­spent.

I have also made sim­i­lar sug­ges­tions and phone calls to the team work­ing on the Guanna Hill re­align­ment on the Mitchell High­way for us­ing old road sec­tions as truck rest ar­eas. I am sure you will be shocked at my lack of ef­fort in only ring­ing them four times so far and talk­ing to a dif­fer­ent per­son each time with, as it seems thus far, the same re­sult.

The Pa­cific High­way has never had suf­fi­cient rest ar­eas and I wrote a let­ter over 10 years ago making sug­ges­tions and rais­ing the is­sue. I also said that as work was done to du­pli­cate it, that a truck changeover fa­cil­ity must be in­cluded. Did that get any­where? No!

LACK­ING IN SHADE

Ben Maguire, the CEO of the ATA, did a trip with me from Dubbo to Mel­bourne last month and we did a ‘Truck That’ in­ter­view with him in Wagga Wagga, and an­other with Lee Camp­bell, who is try­ing to get a truck stop built there.

We, of course, do not have a truck stop in Dubbo any­more and while I did ring Cal­tex and got per­mis­sion for driv­ers to use the toi­lets when they are open dur­ing the day, I am still ask­ing the RMS to build a toi­let block at the truck park­ing area on the north side of town. I have also asked for trees to be planted at Brock­le­hurst over the years but that is also too hard to do, it would seem. So now you know why I have lit­tle hair left.

I now have a plan to see a map of the Newell with all the rest ar­eas, add the green re­flec­tors, find the gaps where some­thing is needed and then over­lay fa­tigue crashes to see what shows. If we do the Newell first and then fol­low with other high­ways, per­haps we will have good data to push for new rest ar­eas or ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity.

I spent three days at Me­ga­trans and want to thank Rod Pilon Trans­port, the Me­ga­trans or­gan­is­ers and Ken­worth for their sup­port.

The first per­son who came up to the truck wanted to shake my hand for the green re­flec­tors. From my view, ev­ery­thing af­ter that was a bonus.

I spoke with many peo­ple and had a good time and had many com­ments about the Truck­Right In­dus­try Ve­hi­cle and its pre­sen­ta­tion, in­clud­ing the ques­tion: “Is this just a show truck?” Not bad for seven years old and nearly 1.4 mil­lion kilo­me­tres.

“The Pa­cific High­way has never had suf­fi­cient rest ar­eas.”

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