Opinion

NSW authorities must do better with rest areas

The busy season has passed with the wheels still rolling after the most turbulent year in all our memories.

I’ve previously mentioned that we left 2020 with a promise in NSW of $398 million worth of “road and safety projects for the NSW Safer Roads Program”. 

We are still looking at what some of that funding will actually produce, we know that rest areas for truck drivers is not on the list. The NSW and Federal Governments continue to do the bare minimum when it comes to the respectful treatment of truck driver needs at work.

Those needs are complex and varied and have been ignored by Government for too long. The TWU has been working with Monash University speaking to truck drivers about their health on the road.

From the 1400 drivers spoken, to we know you face long working hours, sedentary roles, poor nutrition, social isolation, shift work, time pressure, along with low levels of job control, and high levels of fatigue”.

The report shows “there is an urgent need for reform to address and prevent poor mental and physical health among drivers who are under supply chain pressures.”.

The Governments misguided approach to transport industry and road funding means that many of these issues have still not been taken care of for critical transport workers.

Amidst the peak of the pandemic last year truck drivers reported to the TWU the disgusting situations they had to face at rest areas. Drivers know that there are some places you just would not want to pull up.

There are truck stops registered on the RMS website that are not truck stops. They are either inspection bays with no toilet facilities, or facilities with no soap, no identifying markers. What do you write in your logbook when you pull up at an unlabelled truck stop out the back of nowhere? How do you find a truck stop that provides adequate facilities?

Other states are getting on with it. NSW is falling behind despite the number of heavy vehicle operators in the state.

In Tasmania as a part of its “Heavy Vehicle Driver Rest Area strategy” the State and Federal Governments committed $5 million to build five new rest areas and maintain 19 current sites.

The five new sites are to be finished by the end of this year. Also millions of dollars of Federal Government Funding have been committed to rest area improvements in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The TWU is calling on the NSW Government and local councils to do better. A strategy must be put in place that actually ensures adequately provisioned rest areas across the state, proper maintenance of rest area facilities and provides the separation of Trucks and other road users in rest areas.

It is time for some serious consideration on how we go about saving lives and livelihoods in the transport industry.

  • Richard Olsen is the NSW State Secretary, Transport Workers’ Union.
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