Are Australia’s highways damaging our trucks?

By: Rod Hannifey, Photography by: Greg Bush


Truck safety advocate Rod Hannifey ponders the question of which Australian highway does more damage to your truck? And should the truck industry be paying for having to drive on bad roads?

Are Australia’s highways damaging our trucks?
The Newell Highway, well known for its undulating surface

 

The TruckRight Industry Vehicle (TIV) K200 owned and purchased by Rod Pilon Transport is about to clock up one million kilometres, which made me think whether one million km on the Newell is worth two million on the Hume? Or is it only worth 500,000km elsewhere?

To travel to Perth on the Nullarbor, or to Darwin on the Stuart, both pretty good roads, albeit with some patches less than perfect, was generally much better than the Newell and yes, there are certainly other individual roads with sections that make the Newell look good, for example, most dirt roads in Australia.

You might think the Newell, which traverses three states from Melbourne to Brisbane and which once had its own Route 39 government committee years ago, would have benefitted from the wealth of experience and support from three governments. Yes, the Victorian part is also the Hume and it’s not too bad, but the New South Wales and Queensland sections leave a lot to be desired.

I rate the worst sections in Queensland on the Cunningham, south of Aratula at the top of the first three-laner and next, about 5km south of Yelarbon, though of course the national route 39 is via Toowoomba on the Gore Highway. Yet even on that road, with the lights and traffic through Toowoomba, nearing Goondiwindi are three bridges (this could well be argued) about 16 feet wide with just a few guideposts between you and the drop into the creek. Not really a national highway standard.

Then there’s a welcome into NSW with the undulating section just south of the Safe-T-Cam site, which is surely some contradiction as well. There are the infamous culverts south from Boggabilla with at least 10 or more in the first 40km that are as bad as you will find anywhere.

Others in this league were west of Moree and out around Walgett, or even up past Longreach, but nowhere else could I suggest are so many so savage impacts so close together.

On the Hume and every other road in Australia there are issues, failures, bad patches, bad bridge abutments and dips and bumps that in a new car are barely noticeable. But we get blamed for damaging these less than perfect ‘roads’ and are asked to pay for this damage. Who pays us for the damage to the truck and driver?

Recently in the United States there was a move to charge road authorities for damage to the trucks caused by the roads.

I have recently argued in my submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) re road charging that until we get the money we pay now actually put into roads instead of consolidated revenue, they should not change how we pay. Nor should we pay anymore for roads that do not meet a national road standard.

I have run from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney and the Pacific Highway the last couple of weeks and the completed parts of the Pacific are now better than the Hume. There is still a way to go and as long as new rest areas keep coming with the further upgrades still under construction, it will possibly become Australia’s best road.

To read more of Rod Hannifey’s monthly column, see the September 2016 edition of Owner//Driver.

 

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