Truckies’ advocate Wes Walker has his fingers crossed that some of the $80 million Labor has pledged to build more rest areas for truckies will be used to install toilets at the Gatton pads.
Walker’s hopes were bouyed by Labor Senators Glenn Sterle and Carol Brown, the newly-appointed Assistant Road Transport Minister, taking up his invitation to visit the busy decoupling site on the Warrego Highway.
Sterle and Brown were joined by NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto while attending the National Road Freighters Association annual conference in nearby Toowoomba at the weekend.
Walker, 58, a disability pensioner, isn’t a truckie himself, but has friends who are and has been fighting relentlessly for their rights, and the hundreds of other drivers who are caught short each week while moving the freight that keeps Queensland’s shelves stocked.
The trio of dignitaries were able to see first-hand that the supposed bio-security risk toilets would pose to the adjoining fields held little stock, with food wrappers, rubbish, toilet paper and clothing items littered along the grass verge.
Meanwhile, 7km up the road along the Warrego Highway, the heavy vehicle rest area which boasted three-times the rubbish bins, plush new toilets, outdoor tables and sun shelters, was empty when Big Rigs stopped by.
“It’s a bloody disgrace,” said Sterle. “I can’t believe that in this day and age we can build a road train assembly area, an hour and a half out of Brisbane, and think that our drivers are going to come out there to hook up, put it all together and then have no access to a toilet or a shower.
“Same thing coming back. It is 2022. We need fit for purpose road train assembly areas.
“The other thing that raised my eyebrows is that there are no massive roadhouses east or west of the this facility.
“But who the hell wants to stop at a road train hook-up, put it all together without a shower and have to stop again. You don’t want to stop again; truckies are on fatigue management.”
Sterle said the decoupling facility is a classic example of one that has been designed by someone who has “no idea” about what it should be and has failed to consult adequately with industry.
“To think that you can lay x amount of 1000s of square metres of bitumen, put a few lights in there and think you’ve done a good job.
“I’d love to see the bureaucrats who designed it put a light on their head and wander out into their backyard in the middle of the night with a roll of toilet paper tucked under their arm and do what they had to do before going off to work.”
Sterle said the ultimate decision on whether a portion of the $80m set aside in Labor’s first budget in government will be used for the toilets would be left to the committee of truckies Labor is tasking with overseeing the spend.
But he did say that transport minister Mark Bailey and the Queensland government also need to “step up the plate there”.
“I’d really like to sit down with Mark and say ‘come on mate, $18 million for a facility is fantastic but there is no reason why we can’t find something [to build more facilities].'”
The Department of Transport and Main Roads, however, has always stuck to its guns on the issue when approached by Big Rigs for an explanation.
“The decision to omit toilets from the facility was due to the University of Queensland objecting to the biosecurity risk of human waste or litter being left at the site, which may impact their agricultural research programs,” said a TMR spokesperson, adding that no toilets will be installed at the site in the future.