It’s good to see someone like Ben Maguire roughing it in a parking bay overnight and not only living to tell the tale, but making a serious point about some basic rights for truckies. It should be a human right for anyone working away from home to have access to toilets, lighting and water.
Ben spent the night in a truck, a comfortable modern truck by the way, the ATA Safety Truck, at a rest area south of Sydney. As he recounts his experience, the seasoned truckie could probably be heard muttering something like, ‘You were lucky!’ in the manner of Monty Python’s four Yorkshiremen. There were toilets there, with lights, which were poor, however.
The overnight truck parking area was close to the highway, but the cars were parked well away from the noisy road. Ben also packed a sound meter for the night and measured over 90 decibels as he sat in his cabin. He points out WorkSafe reckon 70 decibels is the limit for a workplace, but this is not for working in, this where the driver sleeps.
Luckily, no refrigerated trailers pulled in for a break during the night, neither did two decks of cattle on their way to the abattoir pop in for a quick break, However, he reports a broken night’s sleep and headed out at 4.30am to return to the relative civilisation of Canberra and a decent shower facility.
Ben’s job should now be to get a few more takers for a night in a sleeper cab somewhere on Australia’s wonderful set of highways. If the decision makers at Austroads, who will be considering the proposed guidelines for the different levels of standards for Heavy Vehicle Rest Areas, spent a couple of nights out there, the proposed standards might sit a little higher than they do currently.
According to the standards, toilets, lighting and water is ‘desirable’ in the top tier of rest areas. Is it also desirable for a small workplace employing a few people (who can go home at the end of the day, by the way!) to have access to these facilities. It’s not ‘desirable’, it’s mandatory.
The reality for most truck drivers trying to pull up for a mandatory rest anywhere in Australia is the situation in which they have to take their rest is less than satisfactory and, in many cases, is disgusting. Climbing out of truck in the middle of the night when you finally find a rest area with enough room to fit your B-double is not very welcoming. Stepping down onto the unlit broken surface of the parking area, the driver is hit by the smell of urine and realises there are zero facilities on site.
From the point of view of the truck driver on the road, these conditions show us that the people who are being served by the road transport industry have no respect for those who make sure their Corn Flakes are on the supermarket shelf for them every day. Being treated with no respect leads to resentment and a negative attitude.
They are not asking for much. the facilities on offer don’t have to match those available to the shiny bums in Canberra who are making the decisions on conditions in rest areas. All they have to do is ensure the truck driver, who keeps our nine per cent of the nation’s GDP going, can sleep for a few hours with only a little disturbance and has access to something like a basic toilet, which most other people would regard as a sacrosanct human right.