A lots changed in 20 years

FOR some of us, 1992 doesn't seem like that long ago but when you sit down and think of the changes that have transpired between then and now you start to appreciate what events have occurred since and the subsequent improvements.

Many look back to those times with fond memories, with a common comment being that we were better off then than we are now.

Are we? Let's take a quick look at the state of the road transport industry 20 years ago.

With speed limits for heavy vehicles increased from the long-standing 80kmh in the late 1980s we now have the situation in the post Cowper bus crash era where in New South Wales the heavy vehicle speed limit had been reduced to 90kmh but was still 100kmh in other states. If your vehicle was fitted with a speed limiter and carried the appropriate signage you were permitted to travel at 100kmh on certain sections of road that were appropriately signposted. Confused yet? Read on.

While schemes like TFMS were only a few years away from being trialled and implemented, driving hours laws were far from being uniform, with the best example being Queensland still requiring a 10-hour rest break. This wasn't such a major problem then as filling out log books was more of an option that you only did if you were going past a weighbridge or thought you were going to be pulled over.

And speaking of log books, who remembers that in 1992 we had a large and small version of the log book and a time limit on when your book expired? The term fatigue management and any meaningful implementation was light years away.

In Queensland you could register your six-axle semi combination to load to a "legal" 42.5-tonne gross, while across the border in NSW operators would only be legal at the standard mass of 38 tonnes unless you purchased a type "Y" (41-tonne) or type "X" (42.5-tonne) permit. Just to make sure everyone didn't get too comfortable you had the absurd situation where Queensland authorities would recognise the extra mass afforded to those operators who held a NSW permit, but NSW did not recognise the extra mass afforded by Queensland-registered vehicles unless they purchased the relevant NSW permit.

After Bob Hawke having once decreed that the Hume Hwy would be dual carriageway by 1988, in 1992 the improvements only extended as far south as Goulburn and as far north as Wodonga, with work on the last section of dual carriageway only now having started at Holbrook late last year.

To the north, the F3 finished at Freemans Waterhole and the next piece of dual carriageway was 700km to the north between Murwillumbah and Chinderah. Maybe those that have declared that duplication of the Pacific Hwy will be completed by 2016 need to take heed of Bob Hawke's poor prediction skills.

B-doubles were a rarity, 45-foot trailers were only just being introduced under permit. The only sleeper bunk "cooler" available was a noisy little fan and the motivation under the bonnet of many fleets was still in the 350hp category. Load restraint was another term still foreign to the industry at the time, with just a tarp or some ropes and angles sufficing to hold 24 tonnes. If you were lucky to have a mobile phone, they were either a fixed-in vehicle unit or the size and weight of a double height brick. Any organised representation of the concerns of the long-distance transport industry for both operators and drivers was minimal to say the least.

We have come a long way in the last 20 years, but most will agree we haven't come far enough. Big Rigs has been there to report it all as it happened. With a single regulator in 2013, how many changes for the better are the regulators and the industry willing to make? Rest assured the team at Big Rigs will be there to bring it to you as it happens for the next score of years.

Congratulations and happy 20th anniversary Big Rigs.

Big Rigs

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