It is here, announced in the recent federal budget, an $80 million commitment by the federal government to build and upgrade rest areas for heavy vehicle operators.
We have a solid commitment towards an essential aspect of a driver’s workday, the ability to manage fatigue.
I want the NSW government and Queensland governments to take note, apparently, you will be able to access funding from mid-2023 for the building of rest areas.
Across the states, the inadequacy of rest areas is a testament to the previous lack of responsibility taken by state governments on road safety. The TWU has been pointing this out for some time.
The TWU spoke to drivers at rest areas across the road network. Transport workers told us that when it comes to rest areas, they kept driving because they could not find a parking spot.
They found toilet facilities were dirty or inadequate; they could not access water or a shower; they could not rest because cars and caravans were parked in truck parking spaces. Drivers also told the TWU that there not enough adequate rest areas in roads they used.
Whether it was the inadequate rest areas on the New England Highway, or the absence of rest areas on roads like the Toowoomba bypass, truck drivers are angry that they are not consulted about their needs.
Drivers have told us they are “tired of squatting in the bush” because there are no toilets, they are tired of having to use the shit spade at Mount Boyce to bury their waste, because there is no toilet. They are tired of not being heard.
Plenty of conversations are being held with drivers about how to manage fatigue, but it is painfully obvious that the basic facilities that help them manage that fatigue are missing. Government must ensure that we improve the rest areas along all routes. State governments must not squander this new opportunity.
Consultation is the key. I am calling on government to speak to the transport workers, the main group of people who use rest areas. Make sure they are at the top of the list of people to engage with when it comes to planning.
Speak to drivers about where to put them, speak to drivers about how rest areas can be designed to take larger vehicles, speak to drivers about the problems they face as they do the job. Come talk to us, come find out from transport workers, what their needs are.
Truck drivers pay out a lot of money through fuel levies, Transurban toll road costs and more. Yet that money has not been put back into facilities like rest areas that keep drivers safe.
Governments have focussed on roads and productivity. NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway recently said: “We want projects that build better, safer roads and bridges with higher speed and load limits that improve access for freight on the local and regional road network.”
That has not included rest areas; it has been about finding ways to make truck drivers more productive.
With funding now becoming available, the TWU is calling on the state governments and local councils to do better.
The building of adequately provisioned rest areas across the states’ road networks, which are properly maintained and will enable the separation of heavy vehicles and other road users will save lives in the transport industry.
Richard Olsen is TWU NSW/QLD state secretary