Behemoths of the Newell

By: Ken Wilkie*

OPINION: Ever tried to overtake a B-triple on the Newell while driving a B-double?

Behemoths of the Newell
A narrow section of the Newell Highway


Telematics is the current "in term". Simplified, it can mean overseeing a driver by GPS tracking and vehicle operating parameters. It has long been a favourite claim of supposed road safety experts that if it saves one life, it’s warranted. How many lives is the brain dead decision to allow B-triples (if that is the correct terminology?) to intermingle on the Newell? Supposedly it is to allow better profitability for operators and farmers west of the Newell.

Talk about putting profits before safety. I’ve had but one trip up there since the brain dead situation came into existence. I came into Gilgandra following a B-double from North Queensland. I was running an empty single. We caught up to one of those things as we came into town. On the long pull out of Gilgandra, we could only achieve 80km/h. One thing is for certain, those engines should not glaze up.

At the first overtaking lane, the B-double – with me in hot pursuit – were barely able to get past. And even at that the merge it was not to my liking. What is going to happen when COVID has passed or been brought under control and the highway regains the high number of light vehicles that it normally carries?

What price Advanced Fatigue Management?

I am the first to agree that Australia’s cost of doing business has to be reduced. But I am sick and tired of only primary industry getting relief when the whole country needs relief. How logical is it to allow oversize operations that only benefit primary industry? If someone bashes their head on a combine harvester, doesn’t it hurt the same as if the hitting is done on any other oversize article?

It is fair to say that I am utterly disgusted with bureaucracy’s shallow means of raising the county’s road safety performance. When, for instance, will some bright spark understand the safety impact of promoting a benchmark speed and then actively advertise a breach limit of, say, 10 per cent above? 

Keep left or get fined

Talking about friction in the traffic flow – how about Queensland Transport and Main Roads’ (TMR) policy of requiring heavy vehicles to move to the left lane prior to static checking stations? The signage is to be followed irrespective of whether the station is in operation.

The last of the 'keep left' signs before the unopened weighbridge at Burpengary.

A real doozy is northbound at Coomera. The direction is for heavy vehicles to gain the left lane at the very point that the frequent heavy traffic flow is joining the freeway from Oxenford.

It’s a real exercise in good road safety management. It paints the truckie as a bully because trucks don’t or can’t give way to entering traffic. And why, when the check point is open but not accepting trucks, is the ‘trucks please continue’ sign virtually at the entry point? And that is about the only time that the courtesy of adding ‘please’ to any TMR directive is in evidence.

Rifle Range on the Gateway is another example. Just imagine the complexity of having every heavy vehicle going south in the left lane. Fully loaded multi combinations vie with space on the one lane with every other combination including those empty.

At Burpengary on the Bruce, truckies are required to be in the left lane for almost five kilometres, irrespective of whether there are dawdling light vehicles occupying the space. Remember folks, technically, trucks have no option.

The signage states trucks to use left lane. It is only the "common sense" approach by cops – some of them have it – that trucks ignoring such signage are not penalised.

When I took TMR to task over the three demerit point penalty for trucks in the right lane where it has been designated no trucks, I was bluntly informed that the law was consistent in so much that the penalty applied for non-adherence to a legal directive – or words to that effect.

When will the shiny bums realise the road safety lie in the caption "If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you"? It looks good but is extremely misleading and even gives a dangerous message. Maybe it could read, "If you can’t see a face in the mirror, the face can’t see you."

*KEN WILKIE has been an owner-driver since 1974, after first getting behind the wheel at 11. He’s on his eighth truck, and is a long-time Owner//Driver contributor. He covers Rockhampton to Adelaide and any point in between. His current ambition is to see the world, and to see more respect for the nation’s truckies. Contact Ken at

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