We don’t know what Travis is like, and neither are we sure about Travis’s effectiveness. What are we talking about? Why, the Federal and Victorian Government’s scheme to develop a $4.4 million project called the Truck Rest Area Vacancy Information System (TRAVIS), of course.
Forgive me for being cynical, but is this really a practical and effective suggestion? Yes, it would be great if a truck driver heading along one of our major freight highways late at night could know, precisely, whether there is room to park their B-double in a parking bay in the area where they expect to pull up for the night.
The system is supposed to help drivers plan their rest stops. We have all been in the situation, with limited time left on the log book, of pulling into a parking bay, only to find it full. The trouble then starts, working out how far to the next possible stopping area and how much time is left on the clock.
Not only is this situation bad for the driver, who tries to keep within the regulations, it is also stressful, worrying whether there will be any room to slot the truck into or not.
Don’t worry, the TRAVIS will take good care of you and there will be no worries. The project will install detectors on an experimental set of six parking bays around the Wodonga/Benalla area. The information collected will be displayed on electronic signs on the highway, presumably over quite a distance leading up to the area.
In all of the material published about the scheme so far, the emphasis has been on advancing the safety agenda and the annual economic cost of road crashes ($27 billion per annum). The Victorian Roads Minister, Luke Donellan, talks about listening to road safety and freight groups and the importance of managing fatigue on the highway at night.
Looking at this idea from a purely practical perspective, and not from where the idea is to make it look like government is doing something, there are a number of questions raised. Will this system make a genuine improvement in the ability of truck drivers to park up and rest at night on the Hume, or anywhere else for that matter?
The most obvious issue is the probability the signs will just tell us something we already know. The parking bay is full of caravans and camper vans, who have filled up all of the spaces dedicated to the trucks, which are vital to the country’s economy.
TRAVIS may work to a certain extent on the major routes like the Hume of the Pacific. The more remote highways, where parking bays are few and far between and rarely signposted, are unlikely to be reached by TRAVIS.
All of a sudden the governments are concerned about truck driver fatigue? If they have genuinely been so concerned about the welfare of the drivers who keep the populace’s supermarket shelves brim full, 24/7, then why didn’t they put plenty of parking bays on the highway in the first place?
Yet again, we are in danger of throwing a load of money at something which will be, largely, ineffective, but will have the effect of making the governments look like something is being done. This is instead of spending the funds on doing something which would make the situation better for every truckie concerned, just building a load more parking bays on our highways and putting some signs up.