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Mobile café at popular truck rest stop told to pack up

Transport for NSW (TfNW) has told the owner of a popular roadside café that serves hundreds of truckies a day along the Pacific Motorway, helping drivers take a break and manage fatigue, that he’ll no longer be allowed to operate during his busiest periods.

Daniel Latimore, 29, runs his Carnralla Cafe “On Tour” vans near four rest stops on the M1 between Sydney and Taree. Each site averages about 400 customers a day, with 85-90 per cent being truck drivers – particularly those running interstate from Queensland, Victoria and WA.

A chef/pastry chef by trade, Latimore opened his first mobile café when the pandemic started in 2020. He had been working as a restaurant manager for a busy venue, but lost his job when Covid hit.

“Within eight months of launching the first mobile café at Browns Flat, it went up to four. The business grew quickly, it was phenomenal. Because the transport industry didn’t stop during the pandemic, we were there every day,” Latimore said.

“After launching that first café, it got discovered by heaps of truckies and they were infectious in their passion of needing that service on the road to help manage fatigue and it just grew from there.”

But on February 27, something changed. Without any prior notification, Latimore received a letter from TfNSW with a new permit stating that he could no longer operate alongside the Driver Reviver program at Browns Flat.

Effectively this would force him to close the café during his busiest periods of the year – including the upcoming Easter period, from Good Friday to Easter Monday.

Despite numerous attempts to resolve the issue, Latimore’s attempts have so far gotten nowhere.

“We operate alongside Driver Reviver at all of our sites and it’s only been this season that it’s become an issue,” he said. “This is going to result in us not being able to operate at Browns Flat at all. Our sites north of Sydney break even. They don’t make me a hell of a lot of money – I need to work off the grid, run generators, have fuel costs and wages. If we were forced to pack during the only peak periods of the year, it could force me to move the business into another state.”

These mobile cafés have become a welcome sight for truckies travelling the Pacific Motorway.

Latimore adds that the feedback he gets from truckies is that Driver Reviver is notoriously unreliable and inconsistent – and they’re rarely actually there.

The Driver Reviver at Browns Flat is run by volunteers from the local Lions Club of Bulahdelah, offering free cups of coffee to long haul drivers.

But Latimore says his cafés are offering a completely different service to that of Driver Reviver. “We’re not out there providing a cuppa and a biscuit, we provide meals and hot food for interstate drivers. I wouldn’t even consider our operation to be similar to Driver Reviver. We have truckies that rely on us being there.

“We’re actually on the other side of the highway from Driver Reviver too. They are next to the toilet block and truck parking, we’re about 800 metres away. You can’t even see us from that truck parking bay. We are literally set up and situated where we are for the truck drivers. It’s phenomenal that they’re carrying on about it.

“Truckies absolutely love having us there, we get them supporting us up and down the freeway. Now, the last correspondence I’ve had from Transport for NSW was two weeks ago, and I’m expected to close up next week. I’ve gone round and round in circles for two months and have gotten nowhere.”

And now the saga has put Latimore’s business at a standstill. “I can’t employ more staff, I can’t grow and add more vans because I don’t know how to proceed with it all because no one will give me an answer.”

Update: Transport for NSW was approached for comment on the matter and a spokesperson has responded with the following: “Transport for NSW aims to reduce fatigue-related crashes by developing a network of well-placed rest areas across the state.

“In support of this road safety objective, local councils, with concurrence from Transport, may approve the operation of mobile traders such as food and drink vendors in rest areas as a way of encouraging drivers to break up their journey and rest.

“Driver Reviver is a long-standing arrangement organised and staffed by charity volunteers that also encourages road users to take rest breaks. Transport for NSW encourages and supports Driver Reviver as a priority at rest area sites.  

“Further enquiries regarding this matter should be referred to Driver Reviver and Mr Latimore.”

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