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Study finds truck drivers on Bruce Highway suffer because of inadequate rest areas

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truck rest

Truck driver Danny Spencer at a truck rest stop on the Bruce Highway, north of Sarina. Mr Spencer says there's lots of room for improvement on the state's major road. PIC: Mark Calleja Source: News Limited

MORE than 80 per cent of truck drivers on the Bruce Highway are struggling to find adequate rest areas and at least a quarter have admitted to driving tired on the deadly road, according to a new report.

Some truck drivers are even calling for a zero alcohol tolerance for light vehicles and a ban on all trucks travelling between midnight and 5am.

Most are demanding more rest areas and the segregation of trucks and caravans, with suggestions recorded through the detailed study.

About 300 drivers were surveyed at a new rest stop 160km south of Mackay by local advocates, State Government and industry representatives over 72 hours.

Coordinated by the Road Accident Action Group and assisted by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, the report will be considered by the State Government.

It also reports that drivers as old as 77 are moving trucks along the Bruce Highway, with more than half of all operators working more than 60 hours a week.

National Road Freighters Association director Tony Hopkins said the Bruce Highway was sorely lacking in appropriate rest areas.

``They haven't got the rest areas and what they are putting in have not been suitable,'' he said.

``There's big problems there.''

RACQ executive manager of public policy Michael Roth said the Federal Government needed to increase the number of rest stops.

``Driver fatigue certainly is one of the top issues for safety on the Bruce Highway,'' he said.

``There are long stretches and it's an awful long highway. We encourage motorists to only drive two hours ntsDat a timente and then stop for 10 or 15 minutes.''

Danny Spencer, of Rockhampton, has been driving the Bruce Highway for 36 years is frustrated by the lack of rest areas.

``General motorists have got no understanding of trucks,'' the 51-year-old said.

``Potholes and road maintenance is a big thing and there's not enough parking areas for trucks. There's a lot to be done to make it better for everyone.''

Mr Spencer said the longest he had been stranded due to flooding was two weeks.

``The government, they fly from A to B,'' he said.

``They should get off their arse and drive and have a real look at how us Australians really do it.''

Darcy Hennessey has only lived in Gin Gin for 13 years, but in that time he's personally seen more than 30 fatal crashes, with caravans reduced to ``matchsticks''.

The 70-year-old retired boilermaker regularly travels the Bruce Highway and says he constantly witnesses trucks ``cutting off cars'', with some leading to crash sites he described simply as ``not pretty''.

Mr Hennessey is just one of countless Queenslanders forced to witness tragedy unfold on the highway before them.

The road has claimed more than 300 lives since 2006.

They often have little choice but to watch the carnage and remain silently frustrated.

``There's been caravans just strewn apart, there's been trucks gone,'' he said.

``The memories come back. There's probably 30 major crashes, maybe more, in that area through to Gladstone that have killed people.''

He described one particular scene as looking like ``matchsticks ... all over the place''.

Mr Hennessey said the Bruce Highway was put to shame by roads in southern states.

``The roads down there are 200 per cent better than this highway and that's even right out west,'' he said.

``I travelled (the Bruce Highway) every week, backward and forwards. The roads were never built for the big trucks that they put on it.''

He pointed to the neglected edges that run along some stretches of the highway as being in particular need of attention.

``They have never done the verges, there's big drop-overs with B-doubles and things like that,'' he said.

``They've got no room to get off it because they've got all these big wide loads and the come on very quickly across these little bridges and the big trucks are coming the other way with no time to stop.

``They're doing well over 120 or 130 clicks and you've got probably 80 tonnes sitting behind you and if you're in between them all... well, it's very scary.''

Geoff Eddy, 52, has been in town for just eight weeks and is in the process of buying a house, but has spent years using the Bruce Highway.

Mr Eddy says he has seen head-on crashes and ``accidents, accidents, accidents''.

``You see them every day,'' he said.

``The biggest problem with the Bruce Highway is there's not enough overtaking lanes and they're not long enough. You only get, at best, six or seven cars around.''

Mr Eddy believes fatigue also plays a significant role in a number of crashes along the portion of the highway between Mackay and Rockhampton.

``People try to do too much,'' he said.

On his third day promoting the Coalition's new Bruce Highway policy, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has slammed Labor's original solution for Brisbane's cross river rail.

When asked whether the Coalition's lack of a cross river rail offer had helped make the additional $2.6 billion possible, Mr Abbottsaid: "My understanding is that the offer that the Labor Government made to the Queensland Government on this score was completely unacceptable.

"It wasn't a real offer because wasn't an offer that was made in a form that the Queensland Government could possibly accept."

Asked about polls reflecting Malcolm Turnbull's popularity, Mr Abbott said he felt "very encouraged" that the Coalition was a "broad church" with "room for big figures".

"I'm very pleased to have a strong team," he said.

Source: Herald Sun

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