Improving trucking in Australia

In Aussie Angles, September 20227 MinutesBy Mike WilliamsOctober 13, 2022

With truckers increasingly choosing to overnight in their trucks, the need for better, safer roads and rest areas is ever more important. Australian truckie Rod Hannifey is leading the charge.

Like many interstate drivers, I spend most of my time in a truck when I head off for the week. I don’t spend it in road houses or service centres. For increasing drivers, me included, truckstops are about fuel and a shower. That’s about it.

The cost of living on the road has gone through the roof, and the overall quality and availability of a good feed has taken a turn for the worse. The old ma-and-pa roadhouses, where they knew your name and how you like your eggs, have pretty much disappeared, either because they’ve been bypassed or their owners retired.

These days, my other half prepares my meals, which I keep in the fridge and reheat in a microwave. I’m lucky enough to drive the same truck all the time. I don’t share with others so for me an inverter is an easy choice, a microwave a must-have. The truck is set up to suit my life on the road.

It’s the choice many of us make. There’s nothing wrong with a portable 12V oven, though. A little research is all it takes to find an amazing array of 12V appliances suitable for trucks.

It’s become even more important to have quality rest areas and safe places to park. And it’s nice to know there are people in our industry who take the need for better, safer roads and rest areas seriously. Rod Hannifey is a leader in the fight and probably one of the best-known drivers in Australia. He works for Rod Pilon Transport Dubbo, running all over Australia carting general freight. He’s been a tireless campaigner for improving roads, rest areas and road safety in general for as long as I can remember. Now as president of the National Road Freighters Association, Rod is pushing that agenda hard.

He is now on the third iteration of the TIV – the Truckright Industry Vehicle. He’s said it would probably be his last. It’s a huge project.

Rod takes politicians, road managers and representatives out for ride-alongs to see the state of the roads and other infrastructure. The truck also collects data on the road surface, lumps and bumps, and so on, which Rod uses to lobby road managers for repairs and improvements. It’s also a rolling billboard, with a road-safety message or information on every surface. The rig appears at truck shows and events far and wide. It’s all done with the co-operation of his employer Rod Pilon, but it’s in Rod Hannifey’s own time and for no financial reward.

TIV trucks in their first (below) and second (above) iterations.

The first came about when Ken Wilkie supplied Rod with a Kenworth K104 Prime Mover in 2008. Rod Pilon provided the trailers. The curtains, with all the supporting information, came along, and the TIV was born. Many of the original supporters are still along for the ride. The latest rig, a K200 big cab, is a bit of a change. There are some new trailers and curtains on the way.

Organising it all must be like herding cats. It’s interesting to know where all the ideas and drive comes from.

In 1999, Rod was driving fuel tankers for Ron Finemore Transport. One night, while not on his usual run, he found himself towing a single trailer west out of Sydney, feeling like he needed to pull up but struggling to find a spot. Regular drivers would have known the spots to use and after sailing past several suitable areas, he thought wouldn’t it be nice if they’d been marked with a bit of warning so he could stop? The reflector idea was born.

Fast-forward over the years, and Rod is still working on getting what has become the Green Reflector programme adopted across the country. In 2005, procedures for a Queensland programme were set up, winning Rod a road- safety award. In 2008, NSW Roads and Maritime Service adopted the Queensland model. Victoria joined along the way, and only last year, South Australia joined the party. The Northern Territory and Western Australia are yet to take part officially. There are still lots of places to be marked all over the country.

Simple, effective and appreciated by drivers.

What is this Green Reflector programme? “The most simple, best bang for the buck, road-safety programme in the world,” according to Adam Gibson, risk assessment engineer for National Transport Insurance. Simply, six green reflectors are displayed on three road marker posts in a 3, 2, 1 layout leading up to a stopping place. Drivers, therefore, have a bit of warning in time to slow down and pull over. It’s not rocket science, and it saves lives. There’s anecdotal evidence that the marked sites are used, and drivers are grateful for the initiative.

Rod has always made a huge personal commitment to trucking. He’s made submissions to every inquiry that’s come around. He’s worked with all sorts of interest groups, such as caravan and road tripping people as well as the trucking industry. He’s made ads for television and the Truck That YouTube videos. He writes a regular blog and the “eyes on the road” column for Owner Driver magazine. He also appears on the nationwide Triple M night show with Luke Bona, and random trucking podcasts. I don’t know how he finds time to actually drive a truck.