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Drivers Corner

How to deal with difficult situations in a two-up operation

Two-up driving can be intense, and as a result little niggles can blow up out of proportion to their importance.

The key is to communicate with your partner. Talk early and often and don’t let problems build up.

Avoiding conflicts begins with finding the right two-up partner, continues with good communication and ends with a safe run.

 Finding the right partner

“You don’t want your best mate,” says Dan Graziano, HPS Transport’s Operations Manager. You don’t want someone who’s just like you or someone who’s your total opposite.

“You want a professional relationship, where you drive for a week then get out, shake hands and walk away,” Dan says.

Compatibility is the key. If you’re an aggressive, alpha-male type, your best partner will be someone more laid back. If you partner with someone too much like yourself, you’ll butt heads all the time.

And if you’re less intense, then you don’t want a co-driver who’s also chilled.

Peter Sharp, HPS Transport’s HR/WHS Manger, says that because you spend so much time together at work, the ideal partner is usually someone that you don’t spend much time with outside of work.

“That’s where odd couples can work quite well, because they’ve got nothing in common on the weekends in what they do. They just come to work to work, not to find a friend.”

Even husband and wife teams, or fathers and sons, work best when they have their own interests outside of work.

Talk about your expectations and listen to your partner. When do they like to clean the cab? How do they like it to be set up? When to they prefer to take breaks or stops? 

“Some people are real neat freaks,” Peter says, “while some don’t care. But that needs to be respected.”

Be clear on what are the things you each find most annoying or distracting. Are you easy on the choice of music or podcast as long as it isn’t loud? Do you need quiet to get to sleep, but then it’s OK half an hour later for the driver to listen to something?

Make a commitment to making it work, and if something is causing a problem, bring it up with each other first. That’s much better than going straight to the boss, or moaning to other drivers.

 Working together

Once you’ve found a good partner, how do you work together day-in and day-out? There are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Consideration: take care of your co-driver. If they like a clean cab, tidy it up before handing over. If they like quiet when they’re sleeping, don’t have the radio on full blast. Give them the consideration you want back.
  • Safe driving: there are two lives, two livelihoods, two families and even two communities in a two-up cab. Protect them both. Drive smoothly and always be alert.
  • Fatigue management: fatigue can be a killer, so protect yourself and your partner by managing it. Pull in if you need a rest and avoid the temptation to just ‘push on’ when you’re feeling tired.
  • Working together: a two-up combination is a team, so treat your co-driver as a team-mate. If you always have their back and never let them down you’ll have a long and happy working relationship.
  • Clear communication: if you’re worried about something, tell your partner. If it’s something about the truck, the load or the job, that’s just being professional. If it’s something personal that’s bothering you, let them know. 
  • Listening: communication has two parts: talking and listening. Make sure you’re good at both. Sometimes all it takes to deal with a problem is to have someone listen to you. You don’t need to be nosy but if your partner wants to talk, it’s almost always a good idea to listen.

Sometimes you might need a break from a partner – and that’s okay. Talk to your partner first, then check with your team lead to see if you can both be scheduled to other runs for a week or two. 

Peter says it’s a good idea and it helps good teams stay together: “It just gives them a break from each other, and then when they come back they’re good to go again.”

 Handling conflict

No two people get along all the time. But disagreements in a two-up can blow up quickly.

Here are some suggestions on how to handle conflict with your partner.

  • Calm the situation: Ask your partner ‘how can I help’ will defuse lots of problems. You’re not going to solve it by getting into a fight.
  • Compromise: If nobody’s willing to compromise then you’re not going to solve your problem. Offer to meet your partner half-way.
  • Say ‘I’ and ‘we’, not ‘you’: Talk about how you are responding to the situation rather than how your partner is making it worse. ‘I want to help’ or ‘we need to sort this out’ is much more helpful than ‘you are the problem’.
  • Avoid absolute language: Nobody likes ultimatums, and few situations are ever black and white. Talk about possible solutions, don’t make demands.
  • Listen: If your partner is ranting, ask some questions. It’ll help calm them down. Thinking about an answer to your question will give them some time to think.
  • Stay calm: If you meet anger with anger, you’re going to have a fight. If you meet anger with understanding, you’re going to solve a problem.
  • Focus on the behaviour, not the person: saying ‘when you do that, I get angry’ is more constructive than saying ‘now I’m angry’.

With all the above in mind, sometimes personality clashes can’t be solved. It’s okay to end a partnership if it’s not working out. It’s not a question of right or wrong, or being good drivers. It just might be that you’re not a good match.

The key is to communicate and act like adults, especially if something comes up when you’re on the road.

“You just have to have open discussions,” Dan says. “Between two drivers you have to communicate with each other, good and bad.”

“You have to be able to sort yourselves out, because there’s no-one else around.”


  1. This article has been developed as part of NTI’s The Business of Safety series with the aim of helping transport and logistics businesses become safer and more sustainable. The Business of Safety is funded by the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government. 
  2. Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities.  NTI.M002.18.03092021

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