A bridge too far


Do the authorities really know the size of a B-double and how it requires an alternative if the regular route becomes unusable? A frustrated Ken Wilkie asks the question

A bridge too far
Oh yeah, stay left!

 

I’m not wishing to sound like some moralistic preacher, but tough times bring out the best in some people and they can also highlight some weaknesses. Sometimes one doesn’t need tough times to have weakness highlighted.

As I mentioned in my May 2017 column, one negative impact from Cyclone Debbie was the rendering of the Alan Wilke Bridge to be unusable (not Wilkie, as was referred to it in last month’s issue).

I don’t expect too many interstaters would have ever heard of it. The Alan Wilke Bridge spans the Albert River just a few kilometres from home. Many decades ago, before my time started, the crossing was a low level causeway. It was a causeway because the spring tides and any minor rise in the river flow rate would cause one to consider the advisability of attempting the crossing.

It has withstood many a major flood over the years, including the one of 1974. However, after ’74, increased heavy vehicle flow and the need to reduce congestion in the metropolis of Beenleigh caused the high level Alan Wilke bridge to be constructed.

Unfortunately, the bridge designers either did not understand or chose to ignore the potential of another ’74 occurrence.

Historically, the river has been above 74 levels. Instead of constructing a bridge with numerous spans across the river flood plain, a long earthen embankment was built to connect the bridge to Stanmore Road. Water, like fire, is a good servant but can become very vindictive when tormented; such as being forced into a confined situation under pressure.

The really interesting point of this story is the reaction of many people to the demise of the designated B-double route that was Stanmore Road. It has highlighted the lack of understanding of what is a B-double and what they can do.

The demise of the Stanmore Road B-double route has highlighted the disinterest, the callous disregard and the plain simple incompetence of many of those purporting to give the industry and the nation direction.

Those of us who operate B-doubles are aware of severe penalties applied should we wander off the beaten track.

Initially there was no awareness in the ranks of local politicians of the implications should a B-double arrive at the bridge to find the bridge not serviceable. The major concern was for trucks travelling from the Warrego Highway to Yatala. They would have had to retrace some 60-plus kilometres before diverting onto a legal alternative.

A Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) employee suggested in that situation the B double would have to turn around and return to Beaudesert. Turn a B double around on a major route? It was three weeks from the closure before the TMR could finally gazette an alternative.

Then there was the woman manning the police desk on Saturday morning prior to Anzac Day. You see, on Friday afternoon of April 21, an electronic sign was placed coming into Beenleigh supposedly to give direction to B doubles. It was directing B doubles straight into James Street. Before the small puddle bureaucrats got involved, James Street would have lead the B double driver with just a little care back to the motorway. These days it’s a dead end.

On the Saturday morning I fronted the cop shop to find someone who could have the sign readjusted to give appropriate direction. I commented to the woman on the issue of getting out once I was on James Street. They’d have to turn around. Really? Yes, she says. We get them in here all the time.

The cop shop faces Kent Street and that street is even more space restricted. To get there would involve several local streets and intersections – none of which are anywhere near a B-double route or anywhere near even the temporary route.

When I questioned her knowledge of what was a B-double she got all huffy and accused me of calling her a liar. This is the sort of ignorance that prompted me giving the K104 to Rod Hannifey years ago.

Anyway, after much pestering and good support from at least some people, three weeks after the event the prioritised review gave us an alternative. I can’t help but wonder how long a non-urgent review would take.

The TMR took all the liberty in the world to claim they did wonderful things for the trucking industry with its quick response. And no one using the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) journey planner would have been any the wiser – unless of course they’d planned a trip needing to use Stanmore Road.

In spite of notification to NHVR staff just two days after the flood receded, the route remained a B-double option the whole way through – and probably still is.

Forklift fiasco

It is simply amazing how relaxed one can be when assured of a substantial pay packet, irrespective of any production achieved. The vagaries of the workplace health and safety requirements - I sometimes think the whole process is an espionage effort to totally undermine our economy.

One place expects the driver to hand over truck keys which are then locked in a metal box until loading is completed. However, the driver is allowed to closely supervise forklift loading.

The next place doesn’t care about the keys but fences the driver away from the truck and loading process with a ring of witches’ hats.

We all know about other places where drivers have to stand in a ‘sin’ place until the loading process is complete. On the road though, the driver is still the one to take the rap.

On a commercial premises, two operators did a quick asphalt repair to a 10km/h service road early in the morning. It finished up with stop-and-go at either end and a ‘spotter’ plus supervisor to ensure all was as it should be over the 30 metre section.

A good friend is tearing his hair out over the relaxed attitude of public servants to ‘getting things’ done. The friend has an over dimensional load to country New South Wales. The customer supplies a mud map of the destination. There’s no public record that the country road exists. Is that why councils need a month to come up with a permit?
To compound the issue, at the last minute the customer has another move that would dovetail with the first. To comply with the current bureaucratic expectations, my friend will either have to forgo the income – which is his sole reason for doing what he does – or do the other thing and risk who-knows-what the consequences might evolve into. And since when does the safety ramifications of what oversize is carried depend on whether it is primary production orientated or other commercial need?

Demerits right ahead

I must comment on the proposal from the papier-mache Queensland Minister for Main Roads. The upcoming Commonwealth Games to be held on the Gold Coast is creating concern regarding getting the increased volume of people to destinations in a timely fashion.

Ban heavy vehicles from the outside lanes – a monetary fine plus three demerit points. Anyone heard of a hue and cry from those who might be concerned, like our representative associations?

The only voice I have heard in objection to the demerits is the new CEO of the Queensland Trucking Association. Good on you Gary.

From the rest – well, we are just truck drivers. Has anyone considered why a truck might be in the right lane?

It goes back to my old and constant argument – poor driver education brought about by those who hold the reigns of road safety themselves not being competent drivers. Zero tolerance combined with a fear by the timid of getting knocked off, ruining their good driving record.

I have said it before, and I’ll keep saying it until the situation is changed. All driving is speeding and the whole road safety campaign is corrupt. At best it is based on assumption and designed to give warm and fuzzy feelings to those with ignorant concern – like the woman in the cop shop who maintains B-doubles are always in Kent Street.

When were any of those terrible irresponsible ‘right lane’ truckies breached for speeding while in the right lane?

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