The year of driving dangerously

By: Rod Hannifey*


OPINION: The faceless people responsible for the upkeep of the Newell and other major freight routes are leaving us worse off

The year of driving dangerously
Another year, another shoulder season along the Newell.

 

This will be my year to make a lot of noise about roads and rest areas and why we, as the major users, do not get given the chance to contribute to what is done and how the money is spent.

First case in point – the Newell Highway. With the current works being done south of Boggabilla, I contacted the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services asking would the current green reflector bays – one south of Whalen Creek and one either side about 30km south of Bogga – be retained.

The site at Whalen Creek was worked on, it was paved, but it was very much reduced in size and where in the past you could get well off the road and get shade under a couple of trees, the camber was also changed. So a very valuable and user-friendly site was reduced to a bit of paved roadside.

I rang and emailed again, commenting with the above issues, but by then of course it was too late for this one – it was all done. Even sillier, if that is possible, is the pull-over bay where the guide post has the three green reflectors, so less than 500m away. Why not make one good site instead of two bad ones?

Once that site got marked with green reflectors, I was contacted asking where they came from and was told there would be some other sites and they would mark them. I asked again were the current opposite sites (yes, they were only dirt but they were large and you could get well off the road) being retained? I was told no, but there would be one site in each direction in that area.

Rest area reduction

What has now been left for us (and yes, they are marked with green reflectors but not properly) is a barely wide enough shoulder southbound that you might get two roadtrains in but will be so close to the road it will be useless for sleeping. The northbound site is a couple of hundred metres, if that, of the old road but with a pole at the start so you can’t get well over for the next bloke.

C:\GREGS FILES\4. OWNER DRIVER WEBSITE\Jan 2020\Rod Hannifey column\green-reflector-Newell-s.jpg

I asked about having sections of the old road left for us and I think someone may have listened, with one section left in place, but this week they tore that up. It could well be nearly 40 kilometres of old road torn up and that costs money, then we went from perhaps 24 spaces in the three sites to a total of maybe seven with lost shade, and a loss of capacity to get well off the road. Again, so like normal, we have gone backwards when we all know there are not enough truck rest areas now!

I did nearly all I could do without standing in front of the bulldozers. I rang, I emailed, I explained, I requested and I complained when they stuffed up the first one. Of course they have no idea why I am not happy.

Just to add a bit more stupidity, the bridge at Whalen Creek is one of the few narrow bridges left. It is near the middle of all this widening work and yet it has been left as is. There are hits to the concrete shoulder and there are tyre marks aplenty along it.

But not only has it not been widened during the current works, they have left the lovely sharp edges of the concrete to make sure that if you move over for the goose coming the other way who is on your side, then you will most likely tear the side out of your tyres and blow them as well.


NO REST FOR THE WORTHY, SAYS ROD HANNIFEY


Who is responsible for this effort? Who takes away our rest areas and fails to replace them when everyone knows there are not enough? Who takes away our shade, gives us back places so close to the road you can barely get off the road and who says "stuff you" when I raise these issues? Who tears up 40km of road where, on at least this section, we could have had some really valuable additional truck parking capacity at no cost and then they waste even more money doing so?

Impatient motorists

Next, the overtaking lanes on the Newell. Yes, we welcome safe places for overtaking, but they have all been put on long flat and mostly straight roads where you could often overtake when there was no other traffic. We want to be able to safely overtake a slower truck, particularly now with the Booths AB-triples and some roadtrains who might do their 90km/h, but why not first do the few places where we have idiot car drivers who are too impatient to save their own lives and can’t wait two minutes to risk ours as well?

The dipper in the Pilliga, northbound from Tooraweenah, and fixing the rail overpass at Bellata will save more lives. If I were cynical, I might think while they say it is all about road safety, maybe it’s not? Why are we not consulted? Why, when we offer comment and ask to be included as the biggest group of road users, are we not sought out and given the chance to at least contribute? I don’t expect every state to ring me before they do any work, but they exclude and ignore us and this must stop.

I would welcome your views and will also let you know if any road authorities respond.

 

*ROD HANNIFEY, a transport safety advocate, has been involved in raising the profile of the industry, conducting highway truck audits, the Blue Reflector Trial for informal parking bays on the Newell, the ‘Truckies on Road Code’, the national 1800 number for road repairs proposal, and the Better Roadside Rest Areas Group. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit www.truckright.com.au

 

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