Gary Mahon, Queensland Trucking Association CEO, sparked off a round of applause at the NatRoad Conference, when he was talking about the lack of sufficient rest areas on our highways and suggesting a solution which might help drivers who cannot find a decent place to rest.
The suggestion was to allow semi-trailers to be extended out to 20m long, as long as that extra metre was used to provide a better bunk and more comfortable living space for the driver when they do take the opportunity to rest.
Gary is a member of the expert panel involved in the Heavy Vehicle National Law reform process, appointed to oversee the work of the National Transport Commission (NTC) in coming up with a reform proposal.
“We introduced logbooks in this country in 1938, 81 years ago. That was six years before we introduced mass production in ballpoint pens,” said Gary. “In 1963, we eliminated morse code at the post office and still we prevail with a logbook approach.
“What we need to do is embrace change, so that we go about this in a different way, so that we are contemporary and use technology to our advantage. We need to get in step with the times. Technology will be a step change for road safety and efficiency in this industry and we need to embrace it now, not at some time 20 or 30 years into the future.
“In terms of embracing change I cannot reinforce enough that you should be engaging with your local members, with industry representatives, wherever there is an audience get that message across. You are not happy with the legislative arrangements that we have, that we have a wonderful opportunity with the review and we have high expectations of genuine reform.”
The trucking industry have enough problems trying to transport freight around Australia, putting up with the lack of sufficient rest areas on our highways, without carrying the legislation industry with it, reckons Gary. When drivers get behind the wheel of a truck they are expected to know about something in the order of 2,200 pages of legislation.
The reform process can be used to simplify the way fatigue is legislated and managed using modern technology. Trucking represents about nine per cent of GDP in Australia and should be able to use its clout to push for reform which would actually change the paradigm.
“How many times have you been stood at the roadside or in your yard talking to an enforcement officer and when you say it’s a rabbit, he says it’s a duck,” said Gary. “Virtually every other day we have to try and interpret what is imposed upon us. What are the game changers? Fatigue.
“We have been struggling with this concept for 81 years. We can lead and shape in this country, we don’t always have to follow. You all know that when you are out there and have been driving trucks, there have been days when you are two hours in and you really need to have a sleep, but you don’t because then you have to restart your clock.
“We’re not asking for more hours, we’re asking for flexibility. While12 hours and 14 hours in some circumstances may be fine, what you need this flexibility to compose your day. There is a lot of technology available today which can be utilised, none of it is acknowledged under the law. We are in 2019 and we’re managing with a concept that we came up with before we mass produced ballpoint pens. So flexibility in your day is a key message.
“Access and regional variation is also an issue. We have spent a gazillion dollars on the Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane corridor in the last 30 years. The last change to a limited general access vehicle was in 1996. So, we have spent all that money on those high-calibre roads and yet there is no opportunity to being more efficient with better combinations. These are fundamental elements which we need to reflect on, A-doubles our only four metres longer than a 26m B-Double. They take two 40ft boxes and they give you a seamless transition from a ship to the destination.”