Archive for the ‘Truck driving’ Category

Boys from the bush

Saturday, July 12th, 2014
A couple of months ago the  opportunity presented itself to shift gears and diversify my driving career once again. It's not that I don't enjoy the general freight side of things but the back country roads and bucolic lifestyle always calls my name. I guess the maxim, "you can take the boy out of the bush, but not the bush out of the boy", is true. I'm hauling sheep and cattle now, walk on freight, a definite divergence from my previous freight tasks and whilst many would cringe at the thought my pastoral roots mean it's not a foreign concept to me. I cut my teeth in the Victorian Highcountry at the age of sixteen before pursuing the ovine species (unromantically) in the western regions of New South Wales, I can even wield a wide comb with a small degree of competence. The driving distances are down but loading and unloading presents it's own demands. Cattle aren't too bad as long as you don't get between them a wherever they have a strong desire to be. They'll usually saunter on and off the crates without too much resistance but at around a hundred head per B-Double the odds favour encountering the occasional obstreperous beast. Sheep, on the other hand, present their own set of challenges, especially with head counts of over seven hundred per load. Judicious application of the "jigger" and with the aid of my canine shadow, "Whiskers", the task is usually completed without too much drama. That is unless you find cursing offensive. Another challenge is sleeping when loaded. Sheep aren't too bad unless there's rams on the top decks but cattle often rock the truck so much that you wonder if they aren't stampeding over the gunnels. On the up side, just about every sale yard has a hot shower and the road houses on the back roads are generally ol' school affairs with home style meals and friendly faces even if their opening hours are more restricted than on the east coast highways. All in all it's proved to be a pleasurable change and I'm in no hurry to return to the city traffic and often intolerant attitudes expressed on the endless dual carriage ways that dominate the coastal routes.

A Light In The Dark

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
The number of tall tales you hear on the road would shame a large troop of nervous meerkats. From a friend of a friends uncle who got busted for wearing thongs (on his feet that is) to a former free mason turned police officer cruising the streets in a K200, there are more and more exaggerated stories that do the rounds every day. The latest one is drivers getting knocked off for having white marker lights on their cabs in NSW. For once this one actually has some substance to it but alas the omission of a few facts in the original story and an over excited peanut gallery has let the facts slip off to the side quicker than an express freight carrier going past Bowning at 3am. Here's the original text... "WARNING - LIGHTS OVER WINDSCREENS in NSW. We have been notified that as of Monday 2nd of Dec, any truck with white lights above windscreen on their truck will be issued with a defect notice in NSW. This advice came from the authorities and we know of one truck that has already been defected even though the truck passed roadworthy in Victoria and was supplied by the manufacture with amber and clear lights. ALL LIGHTS ABOVE WINDSCREEN ARE TO BE AMBER" Here's my two bobs worth on the matter... 1. Notification, in this instance, would appear to be in a verbal form at a roadside interception by either Police or the RMS and if its a direct quote the the Officer offering the information needs retraining. 2. The current regulations regarding such lights is regulated by two documents of national legislation and are not the creation of the NSW authorities alone, (a) Heavy Vehicle (Vehicle Standards) National Regulation... https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/SLS/2013/13SL076.pdf (b) Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule 13/00 – Installation of Lighting and Light Signalling Devices on other than L- Group Vehicles) 2005... http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2005L03991/e7b3d9c8-c5e0-4a8a-ae60-b8c17f2bac3f Document (a) specifies that a heavy vehicle must comply with the relevant ADRs, including document (b), and in Part 6, Div 8, divides what are commonly called "clearance lights" into two categories; clearance lights and external cabin lights. For a vehicle built after October 1991 (the vast majority of on highway trucks) to avoid a defect notice it must be compliant. The long and the short of it is a prime mover must have two forward facing white lights at the front of the vehicle either above the top of the windscreen but not more than 400mm from the sides or mounted on the mirrors or their supports. Additionally such a vehicle may also have up to five external cabin lights mounted on or above the roof, at the front of the vehicle, and these must be amber. So if you have white lights on your mirrors make sure you roof lights are amber and regardless make sure everything not on the edge is amber. I'm no RMS inspector or legal type so make sure you read the rules for yourself. For the short version you could try RMS VSI 12.

Sick To Death Of It

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
20131002-014432.jpgWhilst the temptation to use the bullbar to "gently shepard" an annoying road use over the fog line is often present I think the reality is that as Professional Drivers we're more often than not doing our best to prevent accidents. As annual vehicle registrations continue to increase the grim fact is that the statistical likelihood of an accident is likewise going to increase so it's heartening to see annual road fatalities continue to fall in number. My own observations would suggest that this improvement is due to better road and vehicle safety standards, as the skill set displayed by many drivers is sadly lacking. For many years the Australian Truckie has shouldered a lot of blame for the carnage on our roads and it's possibly warranted in a few cases. Certainly, a heavy vehicle accident is far more likely to have a poor outcome due to the weights involved. I think most of us worked out at Primary School that getting a smack on the nose from a big kid usually hurts more than one from a runt. If our industry needs one thing more than any other it's a PR Manager that can change public perceptions as I'm quite sure much of the on road angst could be reduced by a little more understanding from our fellow road users. It's a shame then that opportunities are missed to improve upon our public perception... Take for example the Prospero Productions, "Outback Truckers" series. Here was a chance for viewers to see what it's all about, however thanks to the media's thirst for the spectacular and what can only be described as some amateur actions by some of the drivers (that possibly suffered undue infamy at the hands of the editor) the opportunity was missed. Missed opportunity doesn't restrict itself to the realms of the silver screen though. Having watched the recently aired story on ACA, entitled "Truck Widows" (http://aca.ninemsn.com.au/article/8732072/widows-join-forces-to-save-truckies), telling the story of the brilliant ladies that stand behind the Transhelp Foundation (http://www.transhelpfoundation.com.au) my ears pricked when I heard that 250 truck drivers die each year as that would be more than four every week! It's not the first time I've heard this erroneous and misleading figure either... Steven Corcran of "Truckies Danger Money" notoriety has been quoted using this figure along with the claim in a recent Big Rigs article (http://www.bigrigs.com.au/news/split-on-danger-money/1504562) that truck drivers are "30 times more likely to die on the job than other professions". Every death is one too many but bandying erroneous figures like these about reinforces the public perception that every truck is an accident waiting to happen and the unwashed oaf behind the wheel is hell bent on their gruesome demise. So let's have a look at the real figures... The Department of Infrastructure and Transport, quoted in an Owner Driver articles (http://www.ownerdriver.com.au/news/articleid/73541.aspx) has stated “During the 12 months to the end of September 2010, 250 people died from 209 crashes involving heavy trucks or buses,” and that "Overall, there were 153 deaths from 127 crashes involving articulated trucks.", this of course includes everyone who died as a result of an accident involving a heavy vehicle, regardless of what vehicle they were in or even if they were a pedestrian and is a far cry from the previously stated numbers. In a more recent report (http://www.bitre.gov.au/publications/ongoing/files/fhvc2_2012_oct_dec.pdf) the same department shows the 2012 figures as 92 driver deaths resulting from accidents involving heavy vehicles and once again this is all drivers regardless of their vehicle class. With over 90,000 articulated vehicles registered in Australia I think we've done well to have so few involved in fatal accidents but of course there's little news in these facts. Sure, it's not the safest job in the world but its not as bad as we're lead to believe, we just need to remain Professional and represent ourselves the best we can. Keep it Safe, Mat.

Sorry guys…

Thursday, August 1st, 2013
Sorry guys, I've got heaps to tell but yet to put pen to paper, more to follow, OVER... To keep you salivating while I get organised, here's a clip from Surveillance Oz on Channel 7... https://vimeo.com/71482932

A Fatigued State

Friday, May 17th, 2013
The decision makers at the RMS (formerly the NSW RTA) may need to take a long hard look at themselves. While I'm pleased with the progress made by the NHVR and the NTC in moving toward a more user friendly Fatigue Management System, the same can't be said for the local authorities in NSW. I've just travelled the New England Highway from Newcastle to Tamworth, something I usually accomplish at least once a week and a trip that will be a lot simpler when the Hunter Expressway is completed. That, however, is about where the improvements for road transport end and took over thirty years to even get started. Finding a rest area between Branxton and Tamworth can be tough at the best of times and its getting worse... Heading south from Muswellbrook there's a spot on top of the hill opposite Little Sarajevo, a gravel pit a couple of kilometers further along and then sweet eff-aye until the Motel at Singleton. After that there's nothing usable until the concrete apron just north of the Belford Safe-T-Cam. Due to this limited amount of usable space and an ever increasing number of trucks looking for a rest area it's easy to run out of hours before finding a spot and the Bellford apron, whilst not ideal to access is often a last resort for honest drivers trying to remain compliant. It was therefore disappointing to see the RTA Inspectors set up in the very same location. They knew they'd get a good strike rate and whilst completely within the law it's hardly good spirited. Travel the other direction and your options are just as bleak. The Caltex on the hill at Singo isn't much help with access and egress subjecting trailers to chassis twisting forces most of us would rather avoid. Just over the hill has been a favourite spot for many a driver and an occasional haunt for the RTA. That's worked alright to date but now some moron at the RTA has elected to build a concrete barrier to protect the Inspectors. Great work, now it's hardly usable as a rest area! We've lost two good spots at Aberdeen over the last few years, the latest due to the new bridge construction and you can't pull up on the Kamilaroi junction as some twat has seen fit to erect Armco barriers, obviously to prevent heavies parking. I could go on for hours lamenting the demise of usable rest areas across the state, the imposition of restrictive local council rules and the embuggerance of caravans sprawled across what remains. There are missed opportunities also. Why wasn't the old road at Halcome Hill turned into a rest area? Whilst the forward thinkers at the NHVR are attempting to get in touch with the industry and incorporate a few more proverbial carrots into the system; the RTA continues to rule with a stick that's only becoming less flexible and please don't get me started on the Honorable Mr Gay and his election promise to protect car drivers rights to go unchallenged by average speed cameras! Sir you entered your current role amongst much hype about how you'd been a transport operator but I don't think I'd much fancy driving for you. Enough said, I'm off to the Brisbane truck show for inspiration, I've had enough of this states truck hating attitude.

Counting On Change

Monday, May 6th, 2013
Late in April the National Transport Commission released a draft copy of the soon to be released National Driver Work Diary. The NTC has, at the behest of the NHVR, made what I believe to be a valid attempt to make Work Diaries easier to understand and complete. This should assist drivers (and regulators) to better understand what is required and reduce the incidence of administrative errors. The new books won't be released before 1 July so don't go panicking that you need a new one already. There has been much debate in the Social Media and at road houses as to the benefit of these changes. The NTC states on their website, “The new diary will have simplified daily sheets and will also be accompanied by advice on the fatigue laws so drivers can easily reference information most relevant to their duties. These changes will make it simpler, quicker and clearer for drivers to fill out the daily sheets as there is less information required and not as much duplication." Some of the other amendments include:
  • drivers will only have to record their vehicle registration once a day or if their vehicle changes, rather than at every break
  • drivers will only have to record the location and odometer reading at the start of a rest break, and not when finishing their break too
  • drivers will only be required to record their operator’s Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) or Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) accreditation number once in the diary (or again if it changes), rather than on every daily sheet
  • solo drivers are no longer required to record the state or territory where their licence was issued a new optional comments section is included to allow recording of information such as delays and notes made by authorised officers.
Much of the complaint about the changes is based around the argument that the underlying legislation is in fact inappropriate. I agree in part but the project was never about fixing the legislation, this has been and probably will continue to be an issue for debate elsewhere. If we remove these objections to the benefit of the changes cited I feel we're left with two schools of thought, those that applaud it and those that feel it's a waste of time. If it saves me time and reduces the opportunity to make administrative errors then I can only support their effort and applaud the fact that the NHVR has, through the NTC, improved something of benefit to we, the drivers. In response to the NTC request for feedback on this matter I've forwarded them two submissions. Firstly that the sample page in the draft has an error. At 1pm Greg Smith transitions from rest to work as part of a two up team. Under the new guidelines there is no requirement to duplicate the location and odometer entries at the end of a rest break if these details have not changed. Based on the information presented on the page these details must have changed and should have been completed. Secondly, that the daily work and rest hours totals should be deleted from the page. Why? Because drivers are still confused about what constitutes a 24 hour period... When counting hours under the fatigue management legislation a 24 hr period can only be counted forwards from the end of a relevant major rest break of five or more hours. This means that unless you commence work at midnight a Work Diary pages does not constitute a 24 hour period for the purpose of counting hours. So what? Well for a one thing it's possible to have a page with a work hours total in excess of 14 hours under the BFM rules without having a breach. Let me demonstrate... On the first page a driver commences work at 10pm and stops at 11pm. His first 24 hour period commences at the end of his relevant major rest break, 10pm and will continue until 10pm on the second day. He rests for one hour and recommences his journey at midnight giving him a total of 1 hour for the first page. Page two starts with a period of work from midnight to 6am, a half hour rest and then another period of work from 6:30am until 7am. Since our driver commenced his journey he has completed 7.5 hours of work. He now rests until 3pm, 8 hours. When he recommences at 3pm he also starts another 24 hour period although he still remains in the first one until 10pm. He drives from 3pm until 9pm and starts again at 9:30pm. So far in his first 24 hour period he's worked a total of 13.5 hours. By 10pm he's worked 14 hours in his first 24 hour period. This is the legal maximum under BFM but as this is the end of his first legally countable period he's able to continue on until quarter past midnight at which point he decides to have a 15 minute rest. His work hours for the calendar day are 6 + 0.5 + 6 + 2.5, totaling 15 hours but he's remained within the law. On the third page he commences working a 12:30 am, has another 15 minute rest at 2:45 am and continues until 6 am. He now rests until 3pm, the end of his second 24 hour period and has driven a total of 14 hours in his second legally countable 24 hour period. At 3pm he starts driving again and commences his third 24 hour period. He rests for 15 minutes at 9pm and continues until 11:45 pm giving him a total of 14 hours work on that page. What he does after that is irrelevant to this example but we've clearly demonstrated that a page total in excess of 14 hours is possible under BFM without a breach. What then are these page totals there for? I really have no answer but suspect they are a legacy of the previous (pre 2008) legislation and that the only possible reason for their existence now would be to facilitate the counting of hours for longer durations such as 14 days. This they do poorly for BFM as night hours, long hours etc start to become an issue. A better solution could be to have running totals on each page but this would become complex and open up another avenue for error. I doubt they'll get rid of them although I'd like to think I've offered a compelling argument. More importantly I hope this enlightens those who are confused about what constitutes a 24 hour period for the purposes of counting hours and how a calendar day seldom constitutes such a period. To keep track of your hours correctly without bursting an aneurism I'd strongly recommend getting a copy of "Logbook Checker" from the iTunes Store. It's cheaper than a fine and a piece of cake to use.

Sharing The Road

Monday, January 7th, 2013
The Christmas / New Year period has come and gone as 2013 rolls forward without hesitation. Unfortunately for too many they didn't see the New Year in, with fifty deaths on the nations roads over the same period. It's something very close to my own heart this year after my girlfriend, Joanna, nearly lost her own life after leaving the road, possibly due to a blown steer tyre, and rolling seven times. We're the lucky ones, a couple of weeks in hospital and a few broken bones is a much nicer option that what could have been. The statistics for fatal accidents on our roads continue to improve despite an ever increasing amount of traffic and well they should. The technology in modern vehicles continues to improve and make up for the shortcomings of the average driver. Traction control, anti-lock brakes, doplar radar and more whoopy cushions than you can point a gear stick at all help reduce the impact. Unfortunately you can't counter stupidity despite the best efforts of the road safety authorities and manufactures. My observation is that on the whole, drivers are going a lot slower although this is as much the fault of speedo inaccuracy as it is a conscious decision by drivers, most of them looking up incredulously as a B-Double cruises by doing the legal speed but you can see they're thinking we're speeding. Slow I can cope with, it's the ones that speed up when the road widens to two or three lanes that shit me to tears as they slow down again when the road narrows and you're still stuck behind them. Another issue I see is learner drivers on the road over the Christmas break. This is not a good learning environment. Increased traffic with impatient and unskilled drivers hell bent on reaching their destination, drive too aggressively to be stuck behind a learner forced to travel at 80kph. If it's a double demerit period lets get the learners where it's safe, in the passenger seat, mum and dad are going to struggle to stay alive without giving junior the reins. Caravans... I lost count of how many I saw parked up with failed wheel bearings. This I believe is a direct result of having no annual inspection requirements for light trailers combined with owners who have no mechanical aptitude. Wheel bearing inspection on such a vehicle is a piece of cake but their obviously not preparing adequately for their annual migration. At a time in their lives when most drivers have held their licence uncontested for forty or fifty years why shouldn't another test be in order to tow a van? Some of these things are huge and you can tell at a glance the ones that have their load poorly distributed or are badly setup in the first place. Lastly, there's the truck drivers, the vast majority of whom appear to be doing the right thing but I still see the odd one who gets a bit hot under the collar and attempts some reeducation by tailgating. Come on guys, not only are we meant to be the professionals out here, we're fully aware of the consequences. Do you really want to pull a family worth of corpses out from under your steer axle just because you couldn't keep your shit in one sock? Take it easy out there and we'll all make it home.

As Seen On TV

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

20130103-142911.jpg

Wind your clocks back to last May, that's when John from Central China Television brought his cameraman for a run with me.

I was towing a fifty tonne float for Gavin Transport back then and was just on my way back across the top end and heading in to Drake for some repairs. Changes the concept of ducking into the workshop when it's 4000km across the continent through some of our least populated bush.

Anyway, John just dropped me a line with links to the footage that was broadcast on December 28th. CCTV only has something like 85 million potential viewers making it bigger than any network in the US or Europe and I have know idea what they are saying....

http://jingji.cntv.cn/2012/12/31/VIDE1356965832932273.shtml

Twenty Twelve In The Mirrors

Friday, December 28th, 2012
It's been a big year and one I wont forget in a hurry, for both the highlights and the lowlights. Reviewing the year as it draws to an end is an interesting exercise and one that can highlight how far you've gone in the preceding 365 days. Apart from driving over two hundred thousand kilometers and shifting around seven thousand tonnes of freight I crossed the Nullabor for the first time and later lost count of how many runs I made across "the paddock" not to mention every other point on the mainland. From nine metre wide loads to fifty six metre long triple road trains, I feel like I've done it all this year, even tried my hand at carting cattle and yet there's always more to learn, but that life when you're living the dream. I'm back on the East Coast running general freight again, glad to get some hours up at home although I wouldn't have missed the experience for quids and I dare say I'll end up west of the Newell Highway again at some stage. Diary of a Truck Driver spent the year in over-drive, sprinting past the thousand "Like" count in a fashion reminiscent of a bob-tail up the Toowoomba Range. Three hundred email subscribers and over fifty thousand visits for the year from 136 different countries. I really never thought it would be that interesting, but then there's a lot I don't know. Speaking of which, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator kicks off in January. It will be interesting to see what difference it makes on the road. I'm skeptical but hopeful. It's hard to get your hopes up when the same problems haunt us that Green Dog and the rest of the Razorback crew were fighting against, the names have changed but the vibe is still the same. So roll on 2013, let's be having you and a big thank you to all of you for coming along for the ride. Happy New Year, Mat.

A Christmas Message

Monday, December 24th, 2012
It's Christmas Eve and I'm hoping for a quick turnaround in Queensland this morning so I can hoof it home for the one more sleep before that master logistician does his annual express run. While you're enjoying Christmas with family and friends spare a thought for those in the transport industry who aren't able to make it, the drivers who are too far from home to get there, the ones that deliver the things we take for granted at this time of year and all the others that give up a Christmas  at home to open the road houses and those that try  to  keep our roads accident free. Lastly a special thought for all the families who have an empty chair at the dining table this year because the driver in their life made the finally drop-off to that great DC in the sky. Where ever you are, take care on the roads and have a truckin' good Christmas. Merry Christmas, Mat. Christmas Cheer