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Sleeping in summer

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Despite the Australian heat, there are no rules or official pieces of advice that we can find on bunkrooms, cab bunk cooling and day cabs running long distance

With the advent of air conditioned single bunk rooms and integrated sleeper cabs, it’s easy to forget just how tough long distance truck drivers used to do it in summer in the "old days".

Sharing a bunkroom with a dozen other farting, snoring blokes with maybe a swivelling fan for relief; heads hanging out of dog-box doors to get a bit of fresh air; swags under the trailer; stretching out across the bench seat; and so on.

Thank heavens that’s all just a thing of the past right? Well, no.

There’s no doubt sleeping conditions have greatly improved in many ways for many long distance drivers, to the point of single motel rooms being commonly provided. But there are still some primitive cases out there.

Take some dealer and operator bunkrooms. We’ve previously reported on shared bunkrooms in dealerships and depots which are right next to the noisy TV/lunch room or clanging workshop; and even one which other drivers had to walk through to go to the toilet. That’s not to mention demountable bunkrooms right next to trucks and forklifts coming and going all day, with no sound barrier in between.

At least bunkrooms mostly seem to be air conditioned these days.

However there are still some long distance sleeper cabs with no air cooling whatsoever even though the truck’s driver might need to sleep in them during the day – for example if they’re waiting for a changeover or can’t get back to base or simply have a penny-pinching boss.

In those sometimes impossible summer conditions our advice is to crank up the 550 horsepower air conditioner under the bonnet. (If you do that it’s widely advised to lift the engine idling revs to about 1200rpm so you don’t glaze the bore.)

Ditto if you’re unlucky enough to be needing to sleep in a day cab truck. We’ve noticed what seems to be an increasing number of these on long distance and even interstate work, and they are usually owned by the bigger fleets.

You can bet the company managers who send drivers out in these day cabs have never experienced a delayed changeover; or a breakdown halfway up the highway; or simply needed a 20 minute power nap to keep themselves going in the early hours of the morning.

One day cab driver we spoke to always carries an oversized bag so he can stuff it between the seats and stretch out if he needs to sleep. And he has no hesitation in running the truck aircon.

Asleep at the wheel

So what do all the government agencies, peak trucking and customer bodies, and university experts have to say about sleeping conditions for truckies in the Australian summer?

From what we’ve been able to see and hear, nothing. As far as we can tell, amongst what seems like millions of words on fatigue, there are no standards whatsoever for bunkrooms, sleeper air cooling or the use of day cabs.

The Australian Design Rules for new trucks have all sorts of rules for sleeper cabs, but don’t say anything about cooling.

There are dozens of pages of guidelines for operators accredited under the Basic and Advanced Fatigue Management schemes – and reams of paperwork they have to fill out - but the term "air conditioning" doesn’t rate a mention.

Neither do the ATA’s Trucksafe nor the Australian Logistics Council’s Retail Logistics Safety Code specify anything about a cool sleeping environment.

Meanwhile day cabs seem to enjoy just as good a rego deal as sleeper cabs under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS).

And there’s nothing specific about bunkrooms or sleeper berths under the Chain of Responsibility legislation on fatigue, although we reckon poor sleeping conditions could make for a very interesting test case one day.

In fact the only specific rule or official piece of advice we can find anywhere is that according to reports on the internet, in Western Australia trucks have to have air conditioning if operating north of the 26th Parallel between October 1 and March 31. We don’t know if that includes sleeper aircon or not.

The WA Department of Transport didn’t know anything about it when we emailed them, and suggested we contact WorkSafe. We couldn’t find anything on the WorkSafe website.

Source of article click here: Owner/Driver


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