Rest stop drought


Road transport is facing enormous change in coming years, except in one important area – insufficient or poorly designed rest stops. Rod Hannifey writes

Rest stop drought
Nice shady trees but no truck parking allowed

 

Our industry is facing enormous change, but you can either fear it coming or face it. There is also much conjecture on how fast and how far it will go. Will we all be out of a job next week with autonomous trucks on the road? I don’t think so. Do some look forward to not having to pay drivers so they can make more money? Of course! But what will happen?

For this 300th issue, I was asked to look into my crystal ball, but the damn thing broke when I hit a culvert the other day. When I pulled into the rest area, hit another and that was it. No more crystal ball. However, I can tell you two things I will do this year – I am going to make a lot of noise about rest areas and the lack thereof. And Whiteline Television’s ‘Truck That’ will be more fun than I can have driving.

It seems every day we lose another spot or space to stop. From the Hume to the Pacific and every highway or town we travel through, someone wants to make us safe by closing another informal bay, stopping us parking where or when we want to. Now many of these people may well be acting with good intent, but when we lose one bay here and one there and they say "but it is only one spot and we are building more rest areas", do they really understand and do they care about us at all?

I am making a list and it keeps growing. Hilltop and Logbook coming out of Sydney and the end of the Hume at Albury; every new roadhouse that has room for only five trucks if you are lucky; ‘No Standing’ signs on road shoulders where there is no safety risk or where we want to access a shop. How the hell are we supposed to manage our fatigue when the bays have no shade? You can’t open your bunk door for a breeze because the next bloke will not only tear it off but wake you when he pulls up less than half a metre from your fully noise-insulated truck. Sorry, please let me know what sort that is, won’t you.

Rest stop neglect

South and east of Dubbo, there are two lots of road works. I have been ringing since the work started but Trewilga has just about been finished. I could have included 20 parking spaces for little extra money and what do we get? One stopping bay, not even a truck rest area. To me it is criminal neglect and it is making me very cranky.

It must cost more to rip up the old road than to leave it there, but no, you can’t have it. The cost of Armco must be much cheaper than asphalt, as they can put miles of it up to keep us out, but not spend that money to fix the edge of the road to enter safely and then again to give us a smooth run to get safely back into traffic.

Idiots in cars – and some truck drivers I must say – can still run into you coming from a highway merge let alone out of a parking bay. Yet the "we saw a truck struggling to get back on the road and join traffic" is the preferred excuse to close yet another spot we use.

The one kilometre of road now wasted going into Mt White southbound – why can we not have that? For our safety I was told. Then there’s the absolute stupidity of the current rest areas on the Pacific not including a changeover facility.

I still have my list from 10 years ago, not only offering to do a trip on the Pacific but also asking for a grader to follow and ‘make’ informal bays. The lack of capacity then and the need for a changeover bay 10 years ago – and what do we have now? Nothing!

We cannot access supermarkets to buy cheap healthy food, and more road houses have closed or close their kitchens early. The penalties for not complying will cripple you and starve your family and next year it will get even worse.

Standards not met

I heard Sal Petroccitto from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator saying those who comply will have nothing to fear. But the last study of truck rest areas was done years ago and then not one of our major highways met the minimum standard for truck rest areas. Have you seen that change?

There are more trucks, more caravans and more pressure to comply with rules, yet these are both made and policed by those who have toilets on every floor and cafeterias and cafes on every corner. We can’t get a clean toilet or shade let alone a place to get good sleep.

I suppose, considering that it has taken me 18 years to get recognition and support for the green reflector marking of informal truck bays (and still only in two states) that expecting good and sufficient rest areas is too much to ask.

I cannot do this alone. I need your help. Where do we need more rest areas? What are your complaints with current rest areas? What can you suggest to improve design and suitability for us to get good quality sleep?

Let me know via the Owner//Driver or my website and I will keep trying.

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