Blog 28-4-18. Goodaye all. I have just finished reading the draft document “Guidelines for the Provision of Heavy Vehicle Rest Area Facilities” from ARRB. This study was brought about following my request to the NTC to revisit their 2005 document on the same theme. I contributed to that document, but was unhappy with the way it was produced, showing only one herringbone design, though there was wording describing parallel parking as well and that took months of emails and phone calls and fights, to even get that printed and it has not been looked at since then.
I asked that we needed something both to provide better guidance to those building and designing such sites from those who use them and that it would hopefully ensure we got better outcomes for the future. The biggest problem now, behind the simple lack of sufficient and suitable sites, is that those built now, even with the best of good intent, will be around for the next 20 to 30 years and if they do not provide what we need to get good quality sleep, then we have an even bigger fatigue problem looming in the future.
who cares about my sleep and health?
With the growing number of trucks due to the increasing freight task, driven by the growing number of people, then the simple fact is that with more trucks, cars and caravans, we will need more rest areas for all. Governments are slow to act and even slower to help us, because they of course do not sleep in rest areas on the side of the road. They have toilets on every floor, facilities for heating meals and coffee on every floor and more choices for food in one block, than we might have in 200 kilometres. But have they made much effort in the last 20 years, no.
How many rest areas do you know where a truck can access shade and a toilet. Sorry to test you with two things, I could add tables and chairs and separation from other vehicles, but that would narrow the number down much more. Yet we are tasked to manage our fatigue when someone else tells us to do so, by a book and even worse, by severe penalties should we not do it their way. In the past, yes we may have moved things a bit, because we wanted to drive when we were fit and then sleep when we were tired.
I stopped in Moree one afternoon some years ago. I was out of hours and tried to sleep in 47 degree heat with no shade and how much sleep do you think I got (and no such thing as an Icepack then)? If I had the chance to drive at least till the sun went down or to a suitable rest area (finding shade can be near impossible at times), I would have been safer doing that, but operating illegally. So I stopped and rested sort of and when I could legally leave, I was still buggered. The law has changed and now I cannot legally drive when fatigued and whilst there is as yet not even a working definition of fatigue, let alone a way to measure it, in the near future, there will be devices that can.
Then we have Safe-t-Cam and now the ever expanding National Camera Network monitoring heavy vehicles that will not only take away any minor flexibility I have now and put us not only into tighter boxes, but will punish us even more if we do not do it their way. Next is EWDs again taking away any flexibility what so ever and watching me to the minute and the metre. So if I have driven for the last 40 years without an accident, managed my fatigue safely and this is rarely recognised, I just can’t change that now, because someone else thinks they know better than me when I am tired.
And if I do not have a suitable rest area that provides shade and a toilet, how will I get that needed sleep? Yes we have Icepacks and other systems to try and improve temperature control, but not everyone does and then there are those in frig vans with motors to keep the goods cold and also stockcrates with live animals and their drivers need good sleep too, but I am not used to that noise and if I pull up in good faith and a frig truck or stockcrate driver pulls up beside me as he has nowhere else to go, who do I tell who cares about my sleep and health?
Then we have the growing RV population of baby boomers and others who want to travel and keep their costs down so they can spend more time on the road and some will use a truck bay. That in itself sounds OK, we do not want tired RVers on the road either, but they have more choices than we do and will not get a $600 fine if they cannot pull up when legally required.
I am hoping ARRB and the NTC will seek some more input from other users as the more comments, hopefully the better the outcome. I have lodged a number of issues in my initial reply and did get a chance at the start, so some of the work is a welcome step forward, but if you look at my efforts now of over 19 years to get bits of dirt marked with now green reflectors and the only highway completed is the Newell, then we have a long way to go and put simply, we don’t want to drive tired either, but need more and better places to sleep.