One truckie's battle for better rest stops
ROD Hannifey has been fighting an uphill battle for close to two decades.
As a full-time truckie and part-time road safety advocate, it was never going to be easy but now, as he draws closer to 20 years on the Blue Reflector campaign trail, he admits he is frustrated.
Why? As most drivers would agree, our rest stops are in a shambles.
Despite a national road safety inquiry in 2004, and the production of The National Transport Commission's national rest area guidelines in 2005, Rod said real action had never been taken.
The now 13-year-old recommendations, which included the development of a truck parking bay within 20-30km of each township and a minimum standard of rubbish bins, shade and all-weather pavements, just haven't been acted on.
Instead the Blue Reflector movement, the simple marking technique for informal rest areas, serves as a Band-Aid on the broken infrastructure system.
This is an initiative Rod said wouldn't be needed, if the government followed its own recommendations and placed an emphasis on the needs of drivers.
"The Federal Government is yet to respond to any of the recommendations from this inquiry and has let down all motorists and truck drivers," Rod said as he filled out his logbook, ready to leave the Brisbane depot.
"If we want to talk about fatigue, we want to look at facilities for drivers.
"Of course the people that build them don't use them so it's a hard fight to get what we need."
IT HAD already been a long day in the December heat for Rod, who was on his final few loads before parking up for Christmas.
But as a man on a mission, he had asked Big Rigs to come along with him for the ride, from Brisbane to Moree, Wee Waa and Dubbo to capture just a snapshot of the looming crisis and help set a fire under the bums of the powers-that-be.
"It could be said to be responsible for some road deaths and injuries, by launching an inquiry and then doing nothing," he said an hour into the journey as we pass the Warrill View parking bay.
A stop Rod sees as a perfect example of general ignorance when it comes to the road transport community.
"It's been here for a long time, it is an old bit of road. But they did a major rebuilding program about 18 months ago," Rod said.
"I rang them and said 'while you are there, surely you can fix a few potholes, add some shade and do some repairs'.
Not to be deterred, Rod continued to push, and it wasn't long before someone called him back.
"I was told the parking bay would be returned to its original state," he said.
However instead of the original asphalt, albeit pot-holed surface, drivers were left worse off than before.
"It's just dirt now. You drive in there and you can't leave your window open, and the poor bugger that is in the cab sleeping is going to be covered in two inches of dust," he said.
"Not only did they not return it to its original form, they made the bloody thing worse."
It was a similar story for the next few hours and the veteran driver described each bump, pothole and unofficial parking bay along the route.
Each culvert had a story, and each scraggly stop with just enough room for a single B-double was introduced like an old friend.
By Goondiwindi we had passed less than half-a-dozen official bays with minimum shade and sporadic facilities - the green/blue reflector bays bridging the gap to offer a little refuge to those who may need an emergency stop or rest.
"If you don't know the road and don't know where is safe, the green reflectors help out," Rod said.
"One day we might have enough official truck rest areas not to need the unofficial bays, but we are a long way off from that now."
The next day we stop outside Pilliga Village, to inspect one of the marked green reflector parking bays.
"There is not another rest area from here to Coonamble, well over an hour and a half off the top of my head," Rod said.
"Finding a space where shade is available is also a big thing, as it is often an oversight but something we desperately need especially during the day."
Outside our final destination, the TIV truck passed a herringbone or side-by-side official stop.
Rod shakes his head.
"These can make it impossible to get decent sleep with trucks pulling up, dropping maxi brakes and then slamming doors to go to the toilet, only to start up the truck again, all less than one metre from both sides of the cabin in which you are trying to sleep," he said.
"You get to sleep but get woken a number of times and end up just lying there until I could legally leave."
So what next?
DESPITE the two days of disappointing findings, Rod remains upbeat.
"There are other ideas worth pursuing; you can't offer a pollie a problem and not have a plan to fix it," he said.
But the solution is going to take more than one man.
"There are many roadside stockpile sites used for a short period each year or only every second or third year when resurfacing work is carried out in that area," Rod said.
"I believe that with some forward-planning of any new stockpile sites so that they are both suitably placed for use of road crews, but also for use by truck drivers."
Second was smarter design.
"Designing for use of both trucks and cars will give a better return on cost with less outlay in building separate sites for cars and trucks," he said.
"As an industry we can't be quiet and shrug our shoulders.
"We are the ones that know what has to be done."