Heavy vehicle, News, Rest area toilets

$300k for cleaning and truckies’ toilets still filthy, says Opposition Leader

WA Opposition Leader Shane Love is demanding that the Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti do more to provide the state’s truckies with better rest area facilities.

In a grievance aired this week in the state parliament, Love acknowledged that it is a problem that is “decades old” but the issue has come to a head since Covid, recent flooding and the chronic driver shortage in the state.

He cited the on-going campaigning by Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls Group co-founder Heather Jones in support of his claim that the Labor government must try harder.

“As a long-haul driver of 30 years, she says it has never been more important to look out for fellow truck drivers,” Love said.

“She cannot understand why it is so difficult to get rest areas complete with toilets on the main freight routes, bearing in mind the provision of toilets is a workplace requirement. In the absence of toilets, and, more so, hygienic toilets, she says truck drivers are having to squat amongst spinifex or prickly moses wattle, all the while looking out for snakes and other creepies.”

Jones credits former MP Alyssa Hayden for her work to get three toilets on the 420-kilometre stretch of road between Port Hedland and the Auski roadhouse.

“They are the only bays at which quad road trains can stop with their four trailers, but she suspects it will likely take another 20 years of campaigning before a regular maintenance and toilet cleaning contract is effectively put in place. She says that these toilets are regularly unclean and full to overflowing, so truck drivers are forced to go to the toilet in the bush.

“Having heard that there is a $300,000-a-year contract to clean the toilets, she wonders why they are not in pristine condition. Some local governments are proactive in this space, but Heather says it is rare to find a local government that keeps its toilets and showers in top condition.”

Jones said Karratha has a BP service station but nowhere for trucks to park.

Drivers try to get some sleep on the roadside, but are disrupted by trucks and other passing traffic, added Love.

“The local road train assembly area has no showers, toilets or rubbish bins.”

Jones also told Love that all the rubbish bins have been removed from the rest bays in the Kimberley.

“She has sent me countless photos of roadside rest areas with toilet paper strewn through the surrounding bush.”

He said the “dire situation” at Eucla, 1500km east of Perth, was also brought to his attention recently.

“Truck drivers have nowhere to park, so they pull up alongside the Eyre Highway to rest, with no toilet facilities or rubbish bins.

“Drivers unhook their trailers and try to find a quiet place away from the highway to park so they can sleep. A large number of travellers are heading across the Nullarbor since the border reopened and Great Northern Highway was impacted by flooding.

“It is extremely dangerous for truck drivers to hook up trailers and for travellers on Eyre Highway to interact with them. Truck reversing alarms can be heard all over the settlement as they hook and unhook their trailers. I understand there has already been one accident and several near misses.”

In her rebuttal to Love’s claims, Saffioti said the government believes it needs to continue support truck drivers in the state and Labor has been “very active” in doing that.

“We went to work with the Commonwealth and secured tens of millions of dollars, and it continues,” she said.

“The issues of who is cleaning rest stops and how we manage them are tricky. The distances are vast, and there are differing issues with how clean each rest stop is kept. That is one of the reasons the Main Roads Amendment Bill is in this place—namely, to allow us to facilitate the provision of more rest stops and more commercial arrangements to allow third parties to potentially help the state run rest stops in WA. The Main Roads Amendment Bill will facilitate this.”

Saffioti said an announcement will be made soon about more rest areas along North Western Highway, Great Northern Highway and North West Coastal Highway.

“There are concerns about the cleanliness of ablution facilities across the state. It is a difficult challenge, because they are isolated and cannot be constantly monitored in many instances.”

Saffioti said the government is working with industry on cleanliness solutions, such as whether swipe cards are issued, and is currently finalising a review of the state’s rest area strategy.

“We are constantly looking at ways we can do this better,” she said.

“We will continue to work our hardest to make sure truck drivers get the services and facilities they deserve, because no-one values truck drivers in this state more than this side of politics. No one values the work they have done year in, year out serving the state.”

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