Fatigue management, Features, Truck driver, Truckies’ health and wellbeing, Work diary

Sydney port offers no parking refuge for frustrated truckies

parking refuge

Look up ‘port’ in the Oxford Dictionary and they will tell you it is a place of refuge, among other things – for ships. You will have heard the old adage, ‘Any port in a storm’.

According to Kerryn Woods, who is a paid up member of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA), the ‘refuge’ part doesn’t apply in any way, shape or form when it comes to Port Botany in Sydney.

We came across Woods at the recent NRFA conference in Shepparton, Victoria, and our conversation with him illustrated all too clearly, a stark example of problem truckies can face in their everyday working lives. Kerryn Woods drives a truck. Specifically one that carries dangerous goods, in his case ethanol.

“I’m a driver driving out of Port Botany with dangerous goods, loading out of the fuel terminals, coming in and heading out to any point on the compass,” Woods explains.

“The biggest issue we have there, which I’ve been working on as a board member with the NRFA, is that parking has been removed in the port totally. You cannot park anywhere in the port, and for a long-distance driver if you do get held up for any reason, where you  go? Drivers are faced with a situation where, if they’re out of hours and can’t legally drive, what do they do?

“Park at the port and you’ll have a security officer banging on the cab door at 3am telling you to get out. Are they a police officer? No. Are they an authorised officer by any chance? No. Well, who is going to endorse my logbook to let me drive? Because I’m out of hours and I’m between a rock and a hard place.

“As a driver you have to make a choice. Are you going to drive an hour and a bit to get out of the city? If you get caught, not only are you breaking National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL) big-time, but you’re also loaded with dangerous goods. If the general public got to know about that it would be double trouble. There are drivers who are legally fatigued, driving heavy vehicles through the city loaded with dangerous goods. Can you imagine the outcome? They’d string you up to the nearest post.”

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For local drivers, parking isn’t an issue, but for long-distance truckies, it’s a whole different ball game. Image: Steve/adobe.stock.com

Joining the NRFA has been of great benefit to Woods in that he now has a voice that is being heard – albeit in very small increments.

“Before I joined and got on the board, if I was to contact or ring New South Wales Ports, half the time they wouldn’t answer the phone or they would hang up. Now if I ring them – I’ve made some really good contacts within Transport for New South Wales.

“If I ring them and say look, it’s Kerryn Woods and I’m a board member of the NRFA, I get put straight through to the man I need to talk to. So it is carrying some weight. But the wheels of bureaucracy turn incredibly slowly.

“There is a parking area there which we are trying to get into. We are gradually ticking boxes to get us in so that drivers can go somewhere if they have to. But even then we have people from the government saying we can get you in there but we can only give you five hours. How does that work? It doesn’t.

“You can’t take five hours, so now they’re telling us we have to have a split break which means that we have to drive for an hour and have another six. We have a way to go.

“We had an instance where a bloke pulled up to put his overalls on to go into the terminal to load and he was attacked by a bloke who happened to be the head of security. He went off his nut at this poor guy. He really belittled him.

“The guy – he was one of my ex-drivers – he rang me and said, ‘What the hell do I do? They can send emails to my boss and he’s going to sack me.’

“Luckily I knew his boss and rang to fill him in. Ridiculous? Absolutely. It shouldn’t even be an issue! But here’s a driver who is so stressed out by the port officialdom that he thinks his job will be on the line. And he’s not alone.

“Basically, anyone who’s driving a fuel tanker, even guys that want to pull up in the port and just have a 15 minute break can’t do it. You can’t do it in the terminal and there is nowhere outside.”

NRFA board member Kerryn Woods at the recent conference in Shepparton. Image: Graham Harsant

Woods says there is a solution, but it would be “political suicide” for anyone to do it – reappropriate the adjoining golf course.

“The state government owns the land and lease it to the golf club. It would be a perfect area to build a massive parking area, but would it ever happen? I’m guessing not. Too much political backlash.

“At the end of the day it is groups like the NRFA which is a grassroots organisation that will eventually make a difference. We will get there. The big breakthrough in federal parliament this week may lead to things changing in this sphere as well.


I rang Woods to check some part of his story and he informed me that he’d arrived at the terminal a couple of nights earlier, well before curfew, to be turned away. A backlog at the port meant he wouldn’t be unloaded until 2am – well after that curfew.

“So I go away but what am I going to do? I don’t have the time left in my book to get out so I’m stuck sitting there in Port Botany with a fully-laden tanker.

“This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make. The driver has to make a decision – do I park there and get hassled by security guards or do I say stuff the logbook and just drive, but if you get caught you going to get fined big-time because you are loaded with dangerous goods.

“Or do I go and find a back street and try park somewhere there, which is what I had to do in Military Road, Matraville, up the back on the hill above Port Botany.

“I get up in the morning, pull the curtains back and there’s a car parked 2 feet in front of me! So I spend hours walking around trying to find who owns the car and of course nobody does. Here I am trying to do a million point turn to try and get out, while trucks are going past, a foot from the side of the truck. This is in a 19 metre B-double with 46,000 litres of ethanol on board.

“I eventually got back in the port and I think, what the hell am I doing? I should be able to go in, unload and get out. I’ve allocated enough hours to do that but then they turn you around.

“And this is why we want this allocated parking in what they call the TMA – the truck marshalling area – where we could have seven hours and refresh our logbooks. We’d be in an area that is floodlit, under camera and is safe. Of course no terrorist is going to think about having a look up on Military Road to see if there are any ethanol tankers parked up there, but they might run across me by accident.

“This is a frequent occurrence, not only for me but for lots of drivers. For the local drivers it’s not an issue – they can just throw the last job and go back to the yard. But for the long-distance drivers when you’re working to your logbook it’s huge.”

  • For more from the NRFA conference in Shepparton, make sure you grab your free copy of the March 1 issue of Big Rigs from the usual outlet.

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