ROCK TOSSERS

The NSW Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices is con­sid­er­ing the re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of truck routes through Moree as heavy ve­hi­cles con­tinue to be tar­geted by rock throw­ers along the Newell High­way at night. Cobey Bar­tels writes

Owner Driver - - Front Page -

A NEW spate of rock throw­ing in­ci­dents near Moree along the Newell High­way has again raised the alarm for truck driver safety.

Road trans­port safety ad­vo­cate and vet­eran driver Rod Han­nifey says he was ap­proached in late Au­gust by a driver who in­formed him of a rock that was thrown through his pas­sen­ger win­dow.

“He had his pas­sen­ger win­dow smashed at Moree and he had glass all through his bunk,” Han­nifey says. “He told me it’s been go­ing on for a long time and that he had in­formed po­lice.”

Han­nifey says a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent had oc­curred one week ear­lier when a north­bound truck was hit by two kids standing in the mid­dle of the road.

In Oc­to­ber last year a truck driver suf­fered a se­ri­ous head in­jury and dam­age to his Mack from three sep­a­rate rocks thrown.

That in­ci­dent sparked in­creased ef­forts from Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices (RMS) and the Moree Shire Coun­cil to in­crease pa­trols as well as com­mit­ting to ad­di­tional CCTV and light­ing, as well as ed­u­ca­tion at schools and the lo­cal Rugby League club. An RMS spokesper­son tells Owner//

Driver that it is work­ing with Moree Plains Shire Coun­cil, NSW Po­lice, rail au­thor­i­ties, community groups and community lead­ers to ad­dress the issue.

“Roads and Mar­itime has con­trib­uted $ 90,000 to­wards light­ing and CCTV, which has been in­stalled to help pre­vent rock throw­ing in Moree,” the RMS spokesper­son says. “Truck driv­ers who are aware of in­ci­dents of rock throw­ing or other crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity when driv­ing through Moree should con­tact the NSW Po­lice or emer­gency ser­vices.”

When asked about al­ter­na­tive routes, RMS says it was looking into re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the over-di­men­sional route for AB-triple and B-triple com­bi­na­tions. “Heavy ve­hi­cles, ex­cept­ing AB-triple and B-triple, can travel through Moree via the over di­men­sional ve­hi­cle route.

“Roads and Mar­itime is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the route to al­low AB-triple and B-triple ve­hi­cles to use the over-di­men­sional ve­hi­cle route,” the spokesper­son con­tin­ues.

A data­base was set up by the coun­cil to log ev­ery com­plaint, al­low­ing bet­ter en­forc­ing and plot­ting of in­ci­dents over time, but this re­lies on truck driv­ers re­port­ing the rock throw­ing.

“This has been go­ing on for a long time and peo­ple don’t even bother re­port­ing it be­cause it’s so com­mon,” Han­nifey says. “Make sure you re­port it im­me­di­ately be­cause peo­ple have been killed and it could hap­pen again; we don’t de­serve that as truck driv­ers. Even at Moree, if you smash your wind­screen and cross the road noth­ing will stop the truck.”

How­ever, di­rec­tor of plan­ning and community de­vel­op­ment at the Moree Shire Coun­cil, An­gus Witherby, tells

Owner//Driver the coun­cil is aware of the rock throw­ing and is con­tin­u­ing to pur­sue so­lu­tions to the issue.

Witherby says the new CCTV and light­ing has yet to be in­stalled, “but we’ve been do­ing the back­ground work like the ca­bling and fi­bre op­tics hook-ups”. “We are hop­ing to get it fully im­ple­mented in time for our next main har­vest,” he adds.

Witherby says the to­tal bud­get for the CCTV and light­ing was now around $ 200,000. A proac­tive ini­tia­tive he high­lighted was a mo­bile neigh­bour­hood watch pro­gram, which was es­tab­lished by the Abo­rig­i­nal community in Moree, as­sist­ing in fight­ing the rock-throw­ing prob­lem.

“It is part of the neigh­bour­hood pro­gram and is done in con­junc­tion with the po­lice force,” he ex­plains. “It’s about pro­vid­ing eyes and ears around town.

“What that’s done is free up po­lice re­sources to be able to do more tar­geted, fo­cused polic­ing based on in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to them. It’s got about 80 peo­ple in­volved in it.”

He adds that po­lice have been tak­ing out ad­di­tional pa­trols with some suc­cess. Witherby agrees that re­port­ing the in­ci­dents need to be a high pri­or­ity to help po­lice and coun­cil ef­fec­tively tar­get the issue.

“The re­port­ing needs to be to the po­lice, and we want to hear about it,” he in­sists. “Po­lice told us of three rock in­ci­dents in the last two months re­ported to them. It’s in every­body’s in­ter­est to re­port these in­ci­dents to the po­lice, and we are also happy to take a call and chat about it in de­tail.”

When the issue was at its worst, Witherby says they would re­ceive mul­ti­ple in­ci­dents re­ported each week. The issue is one that won’t go away, and Han­nifey says the lights and cam­eras are needed as soon as pos­si­ble, as well as call­ing on coun­cil to trim shrubs in the area.

“First thing is to knock the shrubs down so peo­ple can’t hide in them,” he says. “The fence they’re cut­ting ev­ery night, so we need more lights and cam­eras to catch them.”

Rock-throw­ing in­ci­dents have been a com­mon oc­cur­rence along the north­ern stretches of the Newell High­way for the past four years.

Back in June 2014, an NQX driver was hos­pi­talised when rocks were thrown through his wind­screen near Bog­ga­billa.

The most in­fa­mous oc­cur­rence of rock throw­ing came in 1998 when truck driver and fa­ther-of-two Mark Evans was killed when four rocks smashed through his wind­screen on the Hume High­way south of Syd­ney.

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