Truckies’ safety advocate Rod Hannifey has put his hand up to be on the industry-led committee tasked with spending the $80 million confirmed for rest areas in last night’s federal budget.
While exact details are still to be released on how it will roll out from here, Hannifey says it’s vital that working truckies are closely involved in where the money will go, a sentiment shared by Labor Senator Glenn Sterle.
“It’s been a long time coming and is very much appreciated, and now what we need to do is get the best value out of it to help provide good sleep opportunities for drivers so they can manage their fatigue and be safe on the road,” said Hannifey.
“Yes, it is not the complete answer, but it’s a fantastic first step.”
Hannifey, who is also the president of the National Road Freighters Association, understands a committe will now be set up made up of a large contingent of drivers and they will have the majority say on the rest area spend.
“Because like everything that happens out on the road, unless you live out here, what they do may have good intent, but doesn’t always deliver what we need.
“That’s why drivers must be involved, not just in this decision, but in many others in the future as well as to what happens on our roads.
“It is often very hard to have a say because we’re on the road and we can’t just drop things and be at meetings and tell people what we need.
“But because of that we’ve often been excluded by default, but we are the ones who live out here, it is our lives at risk, and we are the ones who have to be compliant with all these laws.”
Hannifey hopes that one of the first projects for the rest area committee will be to consider spending a small portion of the $80 million on more green reflectors, a simple, cost-effective initiative he started more than 10 years ago to help guide truckies into informal parking bays.
Hannifey also believes the funds could be used to make better use of the estimated 5000 stockpile sites around Australia that he says are only functional for three months every three years.
“They’ve got good shade, they’ve got hardstand, they might need a tidy up, that might be all they need, and all of a sudden we’ve got another 1000-2000 parking bays and it’s cost us bugger all, $1000 each.
“That’s something that can be done initially, within the next three to six months, and the biggest issue current issue that is glaring us in the face is a lack of a changeover facility on the Pacific Highway around Kempsey or Clybucca.
“The biggest thing is that we get value for money and we can help drivers be safe on the road because we’ve waited a long time for things to improve.”
Hannifey believes the next step will be for the rest area committee to ask drivers to nominate places they believe are critically in need of more capacity, or improvements.
In conjunction with that, he’s also calling for changes to the laws relating to truckies parking in cities.
“For example, Sydney, where I’m asking that we do something about changing that law that says that you can’t park a heavy vehicle in an area with a system of street lighting or guttering for more than an hour.
“And Heathwood in Brisbane is a good example. You’ve got signs up there that say trucks only parking at night. We can legally park in there as an industrial area.
“But you go and park in an industrial area in Sydney and go to bed, when there’s no one there, there’s no factories working, there’s no homes, and they come out knock you off for sleeping there.”
For more on the budget’s impacts for trucking, grab your free copy of the print edition of Big Rigs out on November 4.