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‘I’ve never seen our roads this bad’: Truckie calls for more accountability

Interstate truckie Rod Hannifey has heard and read about all the well-meaning plans from state governments for fixing the flood-damaged roads.

The only problem is that as he drives from Mackay to Melbourne in his job, Hannifey isn’t seeing any evidence that any of the designated money, in any of the jurisdictions that he travels, is being well spent.

“It must be a bugger of a job going out there fixing the roads, but if they don’t do it properly, you may as well be throwing dollar bills on the road,” said Hannifey, who is also the president of the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA).

“They don’t pack it in [the bitumen] and don’t stamp it down and it ends up on your truck. We are talking about the worst state of roads I’ve ever seen in my life on the highway.

“We understand that some of that is flood-related, but some of it is due to the fact they don’t build the bloody things properly in the first place, and that they don’t maintain them, or do proper repairs.

“They have that stupid machine that sprays bitumen on and that’s all gone by the time it’s got to the next pothole, and we’re just throwing good money after bad.

“It’s got to be fixed properly, therefore has to be monitored and controlled to see if we’re getting value for money spent, because it’s our lives on the road.”

Hannifey says the three new passing lanes on the Newell Highway are a classic example of the questionable standards he is seeing right across the roading network.

“None have lasted a month before they had pots in them. I can’t do my job to that level, then they complain to us that we damaged it.”

Hannifey believes that it’s imperative that there is more accountability for the repairs being done.

“If we don’t say something now and get some quality out of it, they’ll still be patching the roads up to the standard they are now in five years, and that scares the hell out of me.”

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Development, Infrastructure and Transport agrees with Hannifey that more needs to be done,  launching an inquiry this week into the implications of severe weather events on the national regional, rural, and remote road network.

Committee chair Luke Gosling said the inquiry will look at road engineering and construction standards to strengthen road resiliency against natural disasters, including the critical role of climate change trends and data to inform infrastructure standards.

‘The committee is concerned about the increasing deterioration of the nation’s road network, particularly in regional, rural, and remote areas,” said Gosling.

“The extreme flooding events and other natural disasters across the nation have impacted many Australians, and the committee is seeking to understand how road planning and construction may be improved to enhance road climate resiliency and support our communities.”

The committee is seeking written submissions, ideally of no more than 10 pages, from organisations and individuals providing recommendations relating to any or all of the inquiry terms of reference by February 28, 2023.

Meanwhile, The Weekly Times reports that roading issues many freight operators are experiencing in the Goulburn Valley region pre-date the wild weather that smashed Victoria.

Heavy trucks transporting agricultural produce to the Port of Melbourne are being diverted through the Shepparton CBD due to the poor state of a key Goulburn Valley road west of the city.

Mooroopna-based freight company Valley Pack’s general manager Taylor Hall said the Murchison-Tatura Road had deteriorated and “an extra 40 truck loads a day” were driving into Shepparton before heading south to Melbourne.

Issues with the Murchison-Tatura Road, which is the responsibility of the Victoria government, predate major floods in the Goulburn Valley with $1.1 million spent on it last year as part of a statewide regional road maintenance blitz.

“It’s been in bad shape for many years,” Hall said.

“This road isn’t impacted by the floods, but is just in bad shape and really dangerous to drive on. The wet weather has just exacerbated things.

“By having to detour we’re being forced to damage other roads which impacts the broader community.”

Road fix campaign

Big Rigs has joined forces with the Australian Trucking Association to put pressure on state authorities to do better.

Send us a picture and a brief description of where it was taken and why the road is such an issue, and we’ll send it on to the relevant state boss and federal Transport Minister Catherine King seeking an answer.

“Our members are sending us a very clear signal that many of Australia’s roads are so damaged they’re dangerous and unpassable in parts,” said ATA chair David Smith.

“Of course, this has an effect on the supply chain because it’s harder than ever to get goods where they need to go. And then there’s the issue of safety which is paramount to our members.

“The situation raises the question about whether the cur- rent road maintenance system is fit for purpose. We would argue it clearly isn’t, especially when Australia is experiencing such challenging weather events.

“The current system doesn’t put much focus on maintenance even in a good year, let alone when we are dealing with something like a major rain event.”

ATA member Tim Hayne got the campaign rolling with the picture above that he snapped on Clump Road, Bellata, in northern NSW.

“The roads in Narrabri Shire are atrocious, partly because of the high rainfall we have had but a lot of the problems are because these roads haven’t been maintained or repaired to a reasonable standard for many years,” said Hayne.

Send your road pics and information to editor@bigrigs. com.au and/or to ata@truck. net.au.

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