Outback truckie Michael ‘Kingy’ King has opened up about the growing issue of trucks being vandalised and stoned in north-western WA after he was recently set upon by a group of thugs.
Kingy, 64, runs a chemical carting business in Port Hedland called Faststar Holdings, transporting liquid chemicals including sulphuric acid, caustic and hydrochloric to mine sites and remote communities; as well as containers of flocculant from Perth up to Pilbara. A separate arm of the business also buys and bags salt for mining companies.
His work means he is on the road for long stretches, travelling some of the toughest routes, from behind the wheel of his 2000 model Kenworth T950.
After being away for three weeks, on the afternoon of Sunday December 5, Kingy was travelling through Kununurra on his way back home to Geraldton, when a group of youths ran out in front of his truck in an effort to make him stop.
“A big storm had come in and I was travelling south and at some distance down the road I noticed quite a few kids had crossed over the road – I reckon they would’ve been about 13-14 years old. As I got a bit closer, I was still down to only 45-50km an hour. It was bucketing down so they were in the rain and playing with water. Then three of them came running out in front of the truck, I heavily braked to miss those three. When I slowed down, they got off the road, then there were about three more kids down the road who pelted me with missiles.”
Two objects hit the windscreen and another hit the glass on the sleeper bunk and completely shattered it.
“If you threw a rock at the windshield, which is a laminated piece of glass, it would mark the glass but wouldn’t likely shatter it. This impaled the glass and shattered the windscreen, but didn’t break the lamination. It was a piece of steel, I can’t see a rock doing the amount of damage that was done,” explained Kingy.
Kingy was lucky to escape with only minor cuts. He tried calling the nearest police station but says that since Covid hit, it only operates during office hours. The incident happened at around 5.15pm.
“I had glass all over me. I dialled triple 000 and highlighted it wasn’t a life-threatening situation but this was what had happened, that my truck had been stoned by these kids, and I got run around in circles. It got so frustrating. The truck was on a reasonable piece of road and it was unsafe where I was parked – so I licked my wounds, got the glass off the truck seat and got going out of town to another truck bay to do a bit of a clean up and I drove on from there,” said Kingy.
“All vehicles have laminated windscreens these days, but if it was hit more to the middle of the windscreen, the possibility of getting that glass into your eyes is huge.”
He headed to the nearest roadhouse, around 120 kilometres away, had a shower and cleaned up the truck. “When I went to get into bed, I felt something biting into my back – it was glass, that’s how far the glass went in the cabin.”
Kingy says he was quite shaken by the ordeal. “This stone throwing just took the shine off me, by the time I got up the next morning it took me until lunch time to start driving again, and that was only because I knew I had to get through Halls Creek before dark,” he said.
But the sad reality is that this ordeal isn’t an isolated one, with far too many truckies being targeted. “It’s actually been happening in a lot of places over here; but the main three towns where it’s become a widespread issue are Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek and Kununurra,” said Kingy.
The issue has become so bad that Kingy avoids driving through these areas at night wherever possible. “We won’t go through Fitzroy Crossing at night-time, and we don’t sleep anywhere near these towns.”
Around 12 years ago, Kingy had a similar experience, this time in Roebourne in the Pilbara. “We got stoned the first time in Roebourne, where a rock came through the side window. The rock was the size of a cricket ball and hit my partner in the neck. When we rang the police it was 6pm and the copper who answered asked me to call back in 15 minutes because they were doing a shift change. My partner’s entire face was bruised and she couldn’t go back to work for nearly four weeks.
“The issues in Roebourne have died down to a point, but when you go on the other side of the border to the Territory, you don’t hear of any of this stuff. It’s basically in the Kimberley and Pilbara that it’s become a huge issue. It’s gotten much worse in the last four years,” Kingy said.
Kingy speaks of some truckies he knows who are putting cardboard up to try and protect themselves in case they are targeted. “Some of these truckies are getting a sheet of cardboard to cover their side windows, because those windows will just shatter, they aren’t laminated like the windscreen,” he said.
“It’s happening all the time, every night. It’s got to a point now that truckies are timing all of their runs in the middle of day when it gets to 35-40 degrees as less people are out.”
Along with rocks and stones being launched at trucks passing by, having fire extinguishers stolen is another growing problem.
“A few months ago, I was running late, so I went through Halls Creek. I went into the servo to buy a couple of drinks and by the time I came out, all my fire extinguishers had been stolen,” said Kingy.
“Those kids that took my fire extinguishers went and set them off at a basketball court that was full of people.
“For me, I carry dangerous goods, it’s also a $1000 fine for every fire extinguisher I have that’s not working. When I went into the roadhouse to tell them what happened, not even the coppers who were there wanted to know anything about it.”