WIMMERA drivers have demanded urgent upgrades for the Henty Highway.
Trucks were photographed last week driving in the oncoming trafﬁc lane to avoid road conditions that would destabilise their loads.
“It is really a tragedy waiting to happen,” Rupanyup road safety advocate Dale Maggs said.
He photographed trucks on Thursday morning, midway between Horsham and Hamilton, on the wrong side of the road.
He said it was far from the only time and place he had seen truck drivers cross the road to avoid potholes and worn tarmac.
“The road is in a deteriorated state in nearly all sections of the Henty Highway, nearly right down to Portland,” Mr Maggs said.
“Drivers are selecting the best line along that road – the safest option – to handle a big rig.
“I commend drivers for their driving ability and judgment, but it’s really sad that they have to do that.”
Mr Maggs said he saw two trucks forced to deviate from the left lane when he was on the highway on Thursday.
“One driver was coming through from Casterton, who had the centre white line in the centre of the truck, because the ruts on either side of the road were causing problems,” he said.
“When you see a big 48-tonne rig coming at you, it’s a worry.
“Those ruts were putting both the truck drivers and other road users at risk.”
Mr Maggs, a road safety representative for the Independent Riders Group, sent his pictures and a letter of complaint to Transport Minister Terry Mulder.
“We need real maintenance done by big road crews,” he said.
“We’re putting the people we love at risk with poor roads.”
Horsham-based truck driver Lawrence Anderson agreed with Mr Maggs.
He said he had been forced to move his 6.5-tonne rigid tray truck, loaded with steel, into the incoming trafﬁc lane to avoid poor road shoulders
“It’s certainly a concern, especially if it’s foul weather, if you’ve got to pull onto the wrong side of the road and you can’t see 100 metres in front of you,” Mr Anderson said.
He said the oncoming trafﬁc lane was empty and it was a clear day when he manoeuvred across the road, but he said truck drivers had been battling with the problem for years.
“Just past Dooen, towards the turnoff to Murtoa, it basically feels like the tyres have come off the road,” he said.
“It really is shocking.”
He said the air-cushioned seat in the truck’s cabin could bottom out, sending the driver rocketing towards the roof.
“It’s the same on the Wimmera Highway past Natimuk, the Borung Highway and some spots of the Western Highway,” Mr Anderson said.
“There are areas where it can go from being absolutely perfect to rough as guts in the space of half a kilometre.”
Mr Anderson estimated that the poor state of the Henty Highway wasted about two hours of each eight-hour working day.
“Load shift is a constant issue,” he said.
Mr Anderson said he had been forced to stop and readjust his load – heavy, bulky steel products – by hand on numerous occasions on each trip.
“We deliver a lot of colorbond stuff, and if it’s scratched I can’t deliver it to a customer,” he said.
Mr Anderson said road conditions had also broken a suspension shackle to the rear of his truck.
He said battling a jittering cabin, concentrating for hours on end to navigate the safest way across sub-standard roads and frequently stopping to readjust the truck’s load was taking its toll on the region’s truck drivers.
“You feel knackered by the end of the day, just trying to hold the truck on the road,” he said.
Mr Anderson said patch jobs would not sufﬁce, and called on VicRoads to upgrade the highway.
“Stop looking at it and do it,” he said.
VicRoads south-west regional director William Tieppo said he was aware of deterioration on the Henty Highway between Horsham and Hamilton, caused by heavy loads and wet weather.
“VicRoads is reviewing and prioritising works for south-western Victoria, with a current proposal to undertake some major patching on the most affected areas on the Henty Highway to be considered,” he said.
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