The NSW government has announced that $80.3m in funding is finally hitting the banks of regional councils, to allow projects to fix country roads to get underway – but a NSW truckie has described this as “too little, too late”.
Shane Buck, who has been an owner driver for 38 years, claims the roads have been neglected for far too long and are now in a “shocking” condition.
“The government are just grandstanding,” he told Big Rigs.
“They have let the country roads get in such a bad state that crews working full-time for 5, 10, 15 years could not fix them.
“We do not have enough manpower to repair the roads with the state they are in now, even if we had the money, because of the lack of maintenance.”
Buck, who lives in Cobram on the border of NSW and Victoria, does most of his runs in those two states, as well as going up to Queensland.
“I’m based just on the border but we do a lot locally from Tocumwal through to Griffith, Deniliquin, and then we go up to Far North Queensland.
“There are a few roads in New South Wales that are great, that have been done in the last five years. But a lot of the time, ‘repairs’ consist of a ‘reduce speed’ sign.
“The Newell Highway is absolutely disgusting. If you go up to Bourke, through Kidman Way. Kidman Way, between Darlington Point and Jerilderie, would have to be one of the most uneven roads on flat ground in the east coast.”
He said the condition of the roads is “extremely dangerous” and is causing crashes, as well as costing owner-drivers and fleet owners a lot of money.
“We’ve got to check our frames when we come through there and we’ve got to check what chunks we have missing out of our tyres.
“The potholes that are on the roads that aren’t being repaired are extremely dangerous on loaded trucks.
“We see the reports on multiple crashes where steers have let go and trucks roll over. And a lot of the time the steers let go because of the damage caused by sharp-edged potholes.”
He added: “It’s costing me a lot of money and repairs to front ends of trucks.
“I’ve taken Yokohama tyres off my truck at 32,000km because they had chunks taken out of them.
“I’ve got Michelins on it now and they still have pieces coming out of them. And they are thousand-dollar tyres!”
Buck, who does shipping container relocations as well as carting machinery and general freight, said the state of the roads means he is getting thrown around so much it’s causing him pain.
“I take a lot of painkillers because of a motorbike accident years ago and on these roads, I take off and I have to stop again to take more painkillers.
“Now I’ve got a heavy-set truck, it’s triple-rated so it’s a bit more rigid in the suspension.
“It’s a 2005 Freightliner but it’s all set up mechanically, new springs, everything is spot on mechanically. And I get thrown around pretty bad.
“You don’t want to have a big breakfast in the morning before you hit the road, I can tell you that.”
This week the NSW government announced that a $80.3m funding boost will finally be transferred to regional councils, to allow 29 road projects to get underway to improve freight connectivity.
Funding deeds for projects that have met prerequisite qualifications have now been signed for Round 6 of the Fixing Country Roads Program.
It means councils will soon be able to access money to deliver freight-related road projects, with construction expected to start next year.
The full list of Round 6 projects under the $80.3 million funding allocation is available here.
So far, under the $543 million Fixing Country Roads Program funding, 293 projects have been completed across NSW.
In a statement issued to media, Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison said this funding should have been delivered long ago.
“The former Liberal National government tried to rip this $80.3 million out of the Fixing Country Roads program and it was Labor who exposed this blatant theft of funds.
“I’m proud to say it’s the Minns Labor government that’s now delivering that $80.3 million to councils that should have received the money years ago.
“The efficient movement of freight is essential to our everyday lives, from the furniture in our homes, fuel in our cars and fresh food on supermarket shelves, we rely on a connected and safe freight network.
“The NSW government provides funding to regional councils to deliver projects that enhance the capacity, access, efficiency and reliability of the road network to improve the movement of freight.”
She added: “All these projects have been vital in helping achieve a more efficient and thriving NSW freight industry to keep this freight moving. The efficient movement of goods from producer to consumer underpins our productivity, international competitiveness, and way of life.
“These projects will have enormous benefits in the way that goods and produce are moved from regional NSW to cities, across the country and to the rest of the world.”