South Australia’s trucking industry has slammed a lack of funding for vehicle rest stops, saying it could take up to 50 years before there are enough stops to meet the Government’s own standards.
According to the SA Road Transport Association (SARTA), Federal Government requirements stipulate there must be an available rest station for truckies every 80 kilometres.
However, the association claims there are only 20 per cent of the number of rest stops needed to meet that requirement.
SARTA executive officer Steve Shearer said it would take decades to meet the requirement based on current funding levels.
“No government of any persuasion has ever spent enough money on rest areas for the trucking industry,” he said.
“That’s outrageous. If you said to the community that we will build you a new hospital but we are going to take 40 or 50 years to do it, that government would get kicked out at the next election.
“That is not enough [funding], and we think it is time that government at all levels take fatigue management in the trucking industry seriously.”
Drivers need breaks to avoid fatigue
Last week, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) revealed that the Federal Government expected to spend just over $46 million of its $60 million budget for funding truck rest areas and other productivity projects in the 2017-18 financial year.
ATA chief executive Ben Maguire said in a profession where drivers were required to take enough rest breaks, it was not good enough.
“The fatigue laws require truck drivers to take regular breaks, but there still aren’t enough truck rest areas in the right places,” he said.
“When rest areas are available, they are, all too often, filled up with caravans. Their condition can be shocking.”
Decades of lobbying with little success
Mr Shearer said he had been lobbying governments for more than two decades for more rest stop funding, with little success.
Grimly, he forecast the only thing that may prompt a boost in finances was a significant road crash.
“Short of arming ourselves with pitchforks, and any other implements we get our hands on, and marching on parliament, you just don’t get anywhere,” he said.
“They do not see votes in it, so they do not do it.
Penalised for not having a rest
The industry has been putting a major focus on combatting driver fatigue, including developing smart technology to monitor a driver’s heart rate.
According to the SARTA, drivers are required take a 15 or 30-minute break on a five or eight-hour shift respectively.
However, Mr Shearer said when faced with no rest areas, or when the rest areas were being utilised by caravans or road-building material, drivers could ultimately cop financial punishment.
“We are bound up in rules, red tape and fines, but governments are failing to provide the rest areas.
“It could be 100 or 200 kilometres up the road before we find another one.”
Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack, and South Australian Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Minister Stephan Knoll have been approached for comment.