One of the most important aspects of getting it right in the trucking world is for government and industry to make sure we know what we don’t know. Two stories in this week’s newsletter illustrate this point very well.
There is little or no data on truck parking bays across Australia. How can we have a credible fatigue management policy, if we do not know whether there are sufficient facilities for drivers to park up their trucks safely and take the legally sanctioned breaks they are supposed to take?
State governments should be able to quantify the number of official parking bays they have in their state, but communication between states and local governments is notoriously patchy, at best. Parking bays only come up for the authorities when there’s a problem, otherwise they are largely neglected, apart from the occasional weed spraying, grass mowing and bin emptying.
Parking bays can also be the victims of a lack of inter-departmental communication. One bunch of bureaucrats may be ticking their compliance boxes by having a parking bay big enough for trucks in a particular area. At the same time another bunch or bureaucrats may have decided the same patch of bitumen is an ideal spot to store a couple of thousand tonnes of road base needed for a planned road building project. The facility exists but is no use to the truckie.
This is only the official parking areas. There are also numerous unofficial, informal parking spots which seem. to belong to no-one and are the responsibility of no-one. There is very little information out there about this useful resource, where a patch of firm ground has been found by trucks and used regularly and receives occasional attention with a bit of road base spread around.
What little information there is available nationally has been gathered by someone who is doing it as a freebie. Rod Hannifey, not only has to keep his family fed by working full time as a B-double driver but also spends every spare minute lobbying the authorities, and anyone who will listen, about the wide ranging issues which make life difficult and dangerous for truckies.
One of Rod’s longer term projects has been in identifying informal truck parking spots and then getting the authorities to put green reflectors on the roads to give drivers notice of a suitable place to park up for the night ahead. Quite often he has had to take action himself, stopping and laying out the reflectors at night while taking his rest break.
Our video this week highlights another gap in our knowledge. The fact of the matter is there seems to be very few hard and fast facts which can be brought to bear when developing fatigue management policy. Every time the issue is discussed there seems to be a host of very divergent opinions.
A lot of the research on which our current regulations are based was not trucking industry related. Many of the arguments about what is a suitable way to manage individual fatigue appear to be as much conjecture as scientific fact. This seems to be another yawning gap in our knowledge.
At least the research project featured in the video does seem to be truck driver based and looking for some real life proof of what a tired driver can and cannot do. A little bit of knowledge can also be a dangerous thing, so let’s hope the results prove to be comprehensive, conclusive and rational.
No matter what the results are, at the end of the project we can be sure there will be more debate with the various sides to the argument finding those areas where there is little or no knowledge and using that lack of data to pursue their particular agenda. The main thing is not to lose sight of the real agenda and that is to have a safe and productive trucking industry.