The TWU has watched with interest as NSW government ministers faced up to detailed questioning in Budget Estimates Committees. Ministers and public servants are asked how they are looking after the money entrusted to them by the NSW taxpayer.
Media reports suggest that there will be delays in government spending on roads. The government is pinning this on the pandemic, but when questioned, the Roads Minister Natalie Ward was unable to talk about which roadwork would be delayed: “It’s a matter for the Treasury.” The public servants apparently have the answer but not shared it with the minister.
The TWU can make some observations on the NSW Government delivery of safety for transport workers. I note that in August, the NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Sam Farraway said: “One death on our country roads is one too many and it takes a suite of measures to save as many lives as possible, like improving our roadside infrastructure.”
Does that “suite of measures” include facilities and rest areas – adequate to suit the needs of all road users including Heavy Vehicle operators? We do not know what strategy is in place, there is very little transparency.
In the NSW Freight and Port Strategy, it states: “Truck rest areas are important in managing driver fatigue as well as providing facilities for load adjustment or addressing maintenance issues that can arise on route. Transport for NSW will continue to identify and develop rest areas at strategic locations on major freight routes.”
Can the minister outline what spending has occurred on facilities or amenities that support driver wellbeing and compliance with mandatory rest breaks?
Roads are safer for transport operators with adequately provisioned rest areas that include suitable facilities that provide the separation of trucks and other road users. Good rest areas support driver wellbeing and their ability to comply with mandatory rest breaks.
In February of this year, Transport for NSW ran an online survey in the heavy vehicle industry. They were looking to carry out a review of heavy vehicle rest stops across the state road network. I also note that since that survey ran, there has been dead silence from TfNSW. Perhaps a question that Ministers Natalie Ward and Sam Faraway could answer: what happened, what is their strategy? Truck drivers need these answers now.
There has been some progress; Minister Farraway announced upgrades to the Ourimbah Rest Area, on the M1 Motorway, with new parking bays for vehicles up to 14.5 meters long. That would fit a caravan behind a 4×4 very nicely. Could the minister outline where he has spent funds upgrading or building an adequate number of new rest areas that are suitable for use by heavy vehicle drivers of semi-trailers that average 19m long or B-doubles that average 26m long?
As one driver asked in a comment on the TWU rest area survey: “We are supposed to be professional drivers, but we have inadequate facilities. Where do our taxes go?
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