The move to the Villawood headquarters sparked fast upgrades in the dispatch department. At the dawn of the 80s, computers began to have a huge impact in the running and dynamic of road service.
As the decade broke, development and trialling began on the innovative Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The change from the long standing conveyor belt system saw many positives but relying heavily on unfamiliar computer system had some dispatchers worried.
There was one instance where the CAD glitched and the dedicated call centre and dispatch teams ensured the continuation of prompt road service by reverting back to the manual process of recording breakdown information on job cards. The information would then be run between call centre and dispatch team to radio each job to the next available patrol until the problem was rectified.
The new computer-aided despatch and communication system at road service headquarters officially came into use after satisfying a 20-day testing period in September 1985. The system was the most up to date amongst the world’s motoring organisations and the first in Australia. The system featured high speed data transmission through a microwave communication network, messages were sent out over UHF.
Digital data terminals were installed in the fleet that recorded the upcoming job in text format. Dispatchers would send the job to a patrol displaying destination, map reference and member details these would remain on screen until the job was completed. This text based transmission ensured jobs were clear and streamlined the communication process.
Radio communications were also improved by the conversion to the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band with all 324 patrol vans transmitting in UHF. Dispatchers would now rely on their computer terminals to call up the whereabouts of the patrolmen to determine the most appropriate patrol for the job.
The road service job information would be read over the radio and the patrol only had to press a button to acknowledge. Upon completion of the job the patrol pressed another button and he would become available on the dispatch terminal.
Special equipment was also installed to make it easier for the hearing impaired to call for road service. A portable telecommunications device enabled hearing-impaired Members to send a message on a telephone line; the message was received and replied to in printed form.
The boys in blue
The 1980s also saw the introduction of the iconic blue uniform. The brown serge coats, pants and shorts were replaced by the blue issue, which was based around patrol comfort and workability. Included in the issue were the standard blue shorts and trousers and shirts as well as an aviator style bomber jacket. Towards the end of the decade the uniform also incorporated reflective strips for high visibility on the road.
The other boys in blue
In 1988 NRMA reintroduced the motorcycle patrolmen. The ‘Jambusters’ as they were called were ideal for the busy, traffic prone Central Business District. Manoeuvring through the traffic jams, the motorcycles featured a basic range of tools and parts to cover minor breakdowns. With an emphasis on safety, the riders were specially selected and were issued with a yellow safety vest and motorcycle trousers with reflective strips ensuring night time visibility.
Initially the Jambusters were issued with the Kawasaki GT550 and BMW R65 and were then upgraded to the BMW K100 which was also used by motorcycle police. With the only difference being the amber lights, the blue uniformed NRMA patrols were mistaken for policeman.
Change of logo
In 1989 the iconic NRMA logo was changed. The long circular version which had been the emblem for 39 years was changed to the superimposed emblem becoming the new identification for NRMA. This was replicated on all cars and uniforms.
Patrol stories-Walter Fazakerley
“Back in the early 80s, Walter was called to the scene of a couple who needed roadside assistance. When he arrived he could only see the wife and wondered where her husband was. She led him to the back of the car and realised that her husband was in the boot and had been trying to check the seal inside for leaks. In doing so he managed to fall into the boot and lock himself in there along with the only set of car keys in his pocket!”
Do you have any memories of the NRMA from the 80s? Did you ever see motorcyle patrols out on the road?
You can also commemorate this occasion with an NRMA 90 Years t-shirt. All proceeds go directly to the Leukemia Foundation.