Line-up for rest area steering committee revealed


Since the federal government announced its $140 million heavy vehicle rest area initiative, the search was one for the faces that would form the steering committee, which was to be made up of four “industry experts” and five long-distance truckies.

The spend was revealed as part of the federal budget in October 2022, where the government committed an additional $80 million to support new and upgraded heavy vehicle rest areas.

That announcement brought the total commitment to the $140 million figure over 10 years, with the funding to be delivered under the Heavy Vehicle Rest Area initiative (HVRA) through the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP).

With the steering committee tasked with deciding how the cash will be spent over the next decade, the industry waited with bated breath to see who would make the final cut. Now, as the steering committee members are revealed, things are looking quite promising.

The committee will be chaired by WA Labor Senator and former truckie Glenn Sterle, who has continuously campaigned for better facilities and conditions for truck drivers.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Albanese government which is delivering for the transport industry and our essential truckies,” said Sterle.

“The announcement of the membership of the steering committee means that we can now get to work to deliver meaningful outcomes for truck drivers.

“Key to that success is utilising the experience, insight and knowledge of the truck drivers and road safety advocates on the committee and I can’t wait to get to work. I’d like to thank every driver who took time out of their busy schedule to complete an expression of interest to be a part of this process and offer my congratulations to those who have been selected.”

Truck drivers were given until mid-December to get their nominations in and state their case. The successful applicants below represent a broad geographical cross-section of the country, with each committee member being from a different state:

  • Kellie Boland: From Victoria, Boland and her family have been owner-drivers for three generations. She has held a heavy vehicle license for over 30 years.
  • Bruce Skelton: From Queensland, Skelton has driven long haul trucks for 40 years. He has been involved in advocating for the correct use of heavy vehicle rest areas.
  • Frank Black (Arcidiaco): From South Australia, he has driven long haul trucks for 35 years; and has also been the owner driver representative on the Australian Trucking Association’s general council for the past 20 years.
  • Heather Jones: Based in Western Australia, Jones has driven long haul trucks for more than 30 years. As well as sitting on the WA Road Freight Industry Council, she is also the co-founder of Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls, which continues to help women get their start in the industry.
  • Craig Forsyth: From New South Wales, Forsyth has driven heavy vehicles for 26 years. He is currently an owner-driver, travelling around 4500 kilometres a week. Forsyth is also a board member of the National Road Freighters Association.

They will be joined by the following four representatives of various industry organisations, who have each earned their seat at the steering committee table:

  • Michelle Harwood: The executive director of the Tasmanian Transport Association, representing the Australian Trucking Association, she brings extensive experience in formulating and delivering the Tasmanian Heavy Vehicle Driver Rest Area Strategy.
  • Rod Hannifey: President of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA), he’s a long-term truck driver, who has earned a reputation as a road safety advocate, representing truck drivers’ interests.
  • John Beer: The former president of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association is also a veteran long-distance truck driver, who has spent more than 40 years in the industry.
  • Paul Ryan: A board member at mental health foundation Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds.

Hannifey said he’s thrilled to have a seat at the table, alongside fellow NRFA board member Craig Forsyth.

“I’m glad it’ll give myself and others a chance to contribute and see some real value for helping blokes be safe on the road,” Hannifey told Big Rigs.

While the committee and its ensuing goals will be a hot topic of conversation at the NRFA conference in Wagga Wagga on February 11, Hannifey said he’s keen to see all truckies have an input.

“I certainly don’t want this to be seen as about me, or the NRFA,” he said.

“We’ve really got to let the committee have that first meeting and then go to every driver in Australia [for their ideas], rather than for us to try and pre-empt it.

“I certainly don’t want to be seen to be doing that in anyway, other than the fact that I’ve made suggestions thus far.”

They include improved parking options for truckies in cities, such as in industrial areas, and better utilisation of stockpile sites, and other locations that are sitting unused that might only need green reflectors, or a little bit of work to tidy them up.

On announcing the make-up of the steering committee, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Senator Carol Brown said: “Drivers like Rod Hannifey, who has driven more than 6 million kilometres, or the circumference of Australia more than 40,000 times, will offer invaluable insights.

“Along with chair and former truck driver, Senator Glenn Sterle, I look forward to working with the steering committee to deliver new and improved heavy vehicle rest areas across the country.”

The steering committee is due to meet for the first time in February.

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