A visitor from down under

by James Menzies

TORONTO, Ont. — An Australian road safety advocate made a surprise visit to Truck News in early August, to share insights from his global truck safety tour.

Rod Hannifey won a Churchill fellowship in Australia, which helps fund an international trip for someone who is passionate about what they do, in hopes that person can bring back ideas for implementation that will enhance the lives of Australians. Hannifey chose to visit the United Kingdom, the U.S., and Canada on his eight-week tour. He was six weeks into it when he visited us, and had just driven across the U.S. from Seattle, Wash., where he visited Kenworth and the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon.

Rod Hannifey

Hannifey is a full-time truck driver in Australia, where he pulls “B-doubles” averaging about 200,000 kilometers a year. After a couple close calls with four-wheelers, Hannifey decided to take action and do his part to improve highway safety in Australia. He developed the Truckies Top 10 Tips for sharing the road with big trucks, and had them displayed on the curtains of his trailers.

He has written safety articles in trucking publications and lobbied government for changes, especially as it relates to adding truck parking. One of his biggest successes was labeling pull-off areas where drivers can get out of the truck, take a walk, have a quick nap and head back out on the highway refreshed. He said truckers not familiar with their route don’t know where these safe pull-off areas are and at night will usually drive past them before they spot them.

Hannifey affixed reflective tape on the guideposts to let truckers know they are approaching a pull-off.

“If you don’t know the road, by the time you see it you’ve passed it,” he said. “I’ve had drivers say I’ve saved their life. They can see those reflectors, they can slow down, warn the bloke behind them if need be, have a walk around the truck and 15 minutes over the wheel if they need it. It has taken me 19 years to get one highway done. I’m trying to get it national.”

In Australia, like here, there is a lack of truck parking. But the problem is worse there, as vacationing “caravaners” fill truck parking lots when the weather in the south gets cool.

Hannifey is also pushing to have young peopled educated on sharing the road with big trucks, before they get their driver’s licence. He produced an eight-minute video that would be required viewing – but the government then said it doesn’t have TVs in the classrooms to show it on. He is trying to secure funding to produce a new video.

“If we educate the children so they think, ‘Big truck – can’t pull out in front of that, I’ll wait,’ if we can save one life from that, everything else is a bonus,” Hannifey reasons.

Hannifey has been talking to drivers on his journey, and has discovered many of the issues facing the industry here are the same as in Australia. A driver shortage – whether it’s a shortage of drivers, or of pay is also hotly contested down under – is a major talking point. As are electronic logs, which Australia is also moving towards adopting. Currently the government there has a camera system that records the licence plate at various checkpoints and determines if the driver has been speeding or exceeding his drive time based on how far the truck has traveled.

“They look at the time between the two and say, ‘You’ve either not had a break or you exceeded the speed limit. Which is it?’” he explained.

Truck parking is a hot topic everywhere, it seems, even in the U.K. where it’s common to pay up to 50 pounds to park for one night. Hannifey was surprised by the lack of rest areas along the 401 from Windsor, Ont., to Toronto.

North American trucks are fitted with more aerodynamic fairings for fuel economy, but Hannifey was surprised by the amount of overnight idling he has seen at truck stops. He was also surprised he’d seen only one scale open on his six-day drive across North America.

As far as ideas to bring back to Australia, Hannifey was inspired by one observation here in Ontario. He noticed a truck inspection pad at the back of a truck parking lot and thought it was an efficient use of space and money.

“There was a large parking bay, I walked out back and there was a police car there and they had an inspection bay at the back of the parking bay. In Australia they build these great big inspection bays on the freeway for $2 million, it gets used once every three weeks and we can’t use it,” he said.

After leaving Ontario, Hannifey was planning to head back south, eventually ending his journey at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Texas, in late August. You can read about his safety initiatives and travels at ww.ultimatesemitrucks.com/truckright.html.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.