BOUNC­ING ALONG THE NEWELL

The Newell High­way is one of Aus­tralia’s main road-freight routes, but for too long the flawed road sur­face has been a quick-fix patch-up job, writes

Owner Driver - - Owner / Driver - Rod Han­nifey

I HAVE BEEN trav­el­ling the Newell High­way now for well over 20 years. In that time, the rate of traf­fic has in­creased sub­stan­tially and will con­tinue to do so. When the Mel­bourne to Bris­bane rail line is opened, there will likely be changes to some freight, but by then most truck­ies will be wait­ing for it to hap­pen. I doubt it will be­come four lanes each way in my life­time and traf­fic will only con­tinue to in­crease.

There is a ‘Cor­ri­dor Strat­egy’ for the Newell High­way done by NSW Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices (RMS), which I con­trib­uted to. I noted some de­fi­cien­cies, in­clud­ing no men­tion of the nar­row rail­way bridge just north of Bel­lata, among oth­ers.

While peo­ple on our side of the road com­mented it was the most sig­nif­i­cant dis­sec­tion of the Newell they had seen, the RMS made no real com­ment or re­ply, so I don’t even know if they agree or not.

Well over 18 years ago I started con­tact­ing the three road au­thor­i­ties when I hit bumps and bounced over cul­verts. One would think for such an im­por­tant freight route ─ per­haps third be­hind the Hume and the Pa­cific ─ there would be some over­see­ing body, in­stead of each state part be­ing left to them. Many years ago, how­ever, there was a Route 39 Com­mit­tee and all three states worked to­gether recog­nis­ing the im­por­tance of the route.

Right now there are still sec­tions in Queens­land and Vic­to­ria I have been ask­ing to have fixed for al­most four years. The NSW sec­tion is not per­fect, but af­ter I’ve been point­ing out the bad spots, they’ve been fix­ing them where and when they can. There is a ma­jor push cur­rently, fol­low­ing fund­ing from the pri­vati­sa­tion of the state’s elec­tric­ity poles and wires.

CULVERT COUN­TRY

A lit­tle while ago, in the 15km sec­tion from Bog­ga­billa south­bound, there were at least 10 cul­verts that were so bad you could not only ac­tu­ally see them, you could not miss them. The im­pacts they put into ev­ery ve­hi­cle that trav­elled over them were sub­stan­tial. Some of these have now been ‘filled’ three times, but with the rolling road re­build­ing, more are slowly dis­ap­pear­ing.

In March, I hit one culvert near the mid­dle of the over­tak­ing lane north of Kiga Bore rest area that showed on Tra­manco’s Chek-Way Elim­i­na­tor INS- COM soft­ware which is fit­ted to the Truck­Right In­dus­try Ve­hi­cle. It in­di­cated a 2.36g im­pact, nearly two-and-a-half times the ac­tual weight of the ve­hi­cle on the road. Be­ing very nearly at max­i­mum HML weights on all groups that trip, this equated to a 15.34-tonne im­pact on the steer, 40.12-tonne on the drive and a 53-tonne hit on the heav­i­est tri-axle group.

Are the sus­pen­sions built to do that daily? I doubt it, and with the num­ber of trucks us­ing the road dur­ing har­vest, there was a lot of traf­fic hit­ting that culvert. The culvert will only get worse un­til it is fixed. The dam­age to the road will con­tinue to in­crease, let alone the dam­age to the trucks and driv­ers.

I con­tacted the RMS the fol­low­ing day and they were not aware of the prob­lem as they had not heard from any­one else. They had a look at it, con­ceded it was a prob­lem and would be looked at within the week. It was patched, but is again fail­ing.

Since the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment relin­quished re­spon­si­bil­ity for Na­tional High­ways to the states, most

would agree that we are not get­ting the qual­ity of the roads we should. The road is our work­place and we carry the na­tion’s goods across the coun­try, but they will not ac­knowl­edge the road safety as­pects of the job. With all the safety hoo-ha that has been tak­ing over work­places where we load and such, why is our safety on the road not con­sid­ered in the same vein?

HEALTH IM­PACT

The im­pacts from the road con­trib­ute to fa­tigue, they im­pact di­rectly on our health over time on the road and they de­stroy our trucks. The road au­thor­i­ties blame us for dam­ag­ing the road, yet if the road did not have the fail­ures, ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and de­for­ma­tions we hit, then far less of all the above would oc­cur.

Yes, we have a large coun­try and a rel­a­tively small pop­u­la­tion, and we can­not ex­pect bil­liard ta­ble smooth roads across the whole con­ti­nent. For we pay to­wards those roads, to the of­ten lousy re­pairs which fail days or weeks af­ter, to the mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of equip­ment sit­ting idle on the side of the road and the months it takes to fix one sec­tion, so are we are get­ting value for that money?

I have been told that up to 30 per cent of the cost of road build­ing is now taken up by safety im­prove­ments. I agree that road work­ers should not be put in dan­ger, but are we still left out? Where is our safety on the road net­work when the con­di­tion of the road adds to fa­tigue and puts un­due strain and wear on me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents and on hu­man bod­ies?

What can or will be done, not just to im­prove the Newell High­way or Route 39, but to en­sure the roads on which we travel are fit for pur­pose and that is to de­liver freight to the Aus­tralian pub­lic and to keep users of the road safe while op­er­at­ing on that road? It is a big ques­tion that must be ad­dressed.

The anal­y­sis from Tra­manco’s ChekWay Elim­i­na­tor INS-COM soft­ware in­di­cat­ing the im­pact of a culvert near Kiga Bore rest area on a prime mover, steer and drive com­bi­na­tion “The road au­thor­i­ties blame us for dam­ag­ing the road.”

An ac­ci­dent wait­ing to hap­pen: Com­moran Creek north of the NSW bor­der

The Newell over Bri­ga­low Creek: care­ful with the drop-off

Wyaga Creek cross­ing: another sub­stan­dard sec­tion of the Newell in south­ern Queens­land

Bog­ga­billa south­bound means you’re head­ing into more culvert coun­try

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