Inefficiency in the works

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersOctober 6, 2023

Monday, 9am. A fleet of contractor trucks descends on my quiet suburban street with the requisite heavy machinery, utes and traffic management trucks. They’re lifting and resealing the intersection at the top of my block, so all four roads are closed to traffic with a mass of orange cones and temporary road signs.

The hustle and bustle are not unwelcome – the intersection’s been in a minor state of bumpiness for a while, although nothing like some other roads. Come 10am, I can still hear the clatter of a diesel engine outside, which is strange considering my house is about 120m away from the hum of the working construction machinery. A peek reveals the traffic management truck parked up with its driver sat inside, wearing a hard hat (for safety, I guess).

And there he stayed until about 6pm, the truck idling away. Come Tuesday, he was back, and while Wednesday and Thursday were calm and quiet, the party had just moved to an adjacent street.

I assume there could be any number of reasons for a man to sit in his stationary truck for about nine hours with its engine running: company policy – though I doubt it – or perhaps to run the air conditioning to fight off the approaching summer heat. While I don’t wish to overstep the mark with assumptions, I wouldn’t be surprised if this occurs at most roadwork sites.

But regardless of whether it’s common, I couldn’t get over the absurdity – a driver paid to sit in the truck for the whole day, wearing head-to-toe PPE, wasting fuel. If it were me, I’d want to keep cool, too, though I’d probably have opted to park about 30m up the road in the shade of a very large tree. But that’s avoiding the question of why there was a need for a traffic management truck to even be on site in this instance anyway.

To their credit, the teams have completed their work and cleared off in less than a week. But I still have the nagging question as to the apparent inefficiency of it all. Roadwork sites around the country seem to have grown in the number of personnel and vehicles employed and, seemingly, the amount of time to completion, too (weather notwithstanding). More people and machinery standing around (maybe even left idling) for more time.

As ever, I acknowledge I’m but a casual observer and roadworks are not my forte, but most people with an inkling of how to get a job done efficiently will probably agree that this can’t be it.

Imagine if trucking companies started teaming up their drivers with a compliance officer and, for good measure, sent out an observer in a ute to follow the trucks around. (Here’s hoping the regulators don’t read this and get any bright ideas.) What a waste of time, money and resources that would be, when all the job needs is one skilled, compliant, conscientious individual to get it done.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers