WHEN Daniel Mibus was young, the quality of roads in the Wimmera was a cause for amusement.
Born and raised in Dimboola, he would bounce along the Borung Highway in his primary school bus and compete against his friends to see who could bounce the highest in their seat as the bus went over bumps.
Now 39 and a truck driver, he knows it's no laughing matter.
He welcomes the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Transport Group's call for the state government to commit $50 million to upgrading what it considers the region's 30 worst C-Class roads.
"The Borung Highway was the worst highway in Victoria, now it's probably one of the better ones," he said.
"All the livestock coming from Victoria's southeast to New South Wales travels through Warracknabeal, Birchip, Quambatook and Kerang. Those roads are terrible through there.
"If you're coming out of the Coonawarra with fresh produce and going to Sydney through Horsham, all the roads around Minyip, Murtoa and Donald are shocking. That's a major freight thoroughfare to NSW and Sydney."
Mr Mibus has driven trucks for 17 years, and is director of Mibus Transport Dimboola. He often carts livestock out of the feedlot at Nhill, and from Mount Gambier.
"The thing that annoys me at the moment is they are putting 80 kilometre speed signs up to slow down because of the road," he said.
"We can only do 12 hours a day of driving by law, and we get paid per kilometre, so we have to sit on 100 to do the most kilometres, and make the most money, in that 12-hour period.
"If they are going to slow us down to 80 or 60 kilometres, they are deducting our pay. They are taking money away from us.
"There is one spot in between Murtoa and Donald where it is down to 60 because a culvert that runs out of the road that will throw you out of your seat. If you're in a car you won't feel that, but in a B-Double, it will damage the gears and suspension.
"I've also got a duty of care to the cattle I transport. If I start bruising cattle by going to quick on these roads, we are going to get pay deducted, because the abattoirs will come back to them saying there is too much bruising."
Mr Mibus, a member of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Victoria, said bruising of cattle could also see farmers lose money.
"I do know truckers that add extra money onto farmers' freight bills because they are driving bad roads," he said.
VicRoads defines C-Class roads as two lane (one in each direction) sealed roads with shoulders. It says these provide important links between population centres, especially for freight and livestock transport.
Mr Mibus said Wimmera roads were also used by drivers trucking potatoes and onions from South Australia's Limestone Coast to markets in New South Wales and Queensland.
He is concerned about C-Class roads for more reasons than money: His best friend Glen "Shorty" Paterson, owner of Mount Gambier's Mingbool Haulage, died when his cattle truck hit a tree on one - Edenhope-Penola Road at Langkoop - in February of this year.
"It was on a sharp bend that the truck hit a big gum tree," he said. "I still do sub-contracting for his company... we don't know why or what happened. I think the roads aren't wide enough down there.
"I could be coming home one of these very rough roads, and two trucks come along at the same time and sideswipe each other and possibly not come home."
While she did not wish to be interviewed for this story, Mr Mibus said Mr Paterson's wife Jess believed road conditions had played a part in her husband's death.
On Tuesday, Victoria Police said it would submit a report on the crash to the coroner within the next week, and the coroner would determine the cause of the crash.
WSMRTG chair Kevin Erwin, a Northern Grampians Shire councillor, said road quality was what the six local governments - West Wimmera, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Yarriambiack, Buloke and Northern Grampians - received the most complaints about from ratepayers.
"This has been on the drawing board for quite some time, at least a decade, and there has been a lot of research and background information gathered to make a strong case," he said.
"This is probably the first time we've done a strategic and united approach to get these roads addressed. It may not get to the 30 roads, but it's a start.
"These roads were built for tray trucks, not the B-doubles you see moving around these days on a regular basis. The Stawell-Navarre Road, Stawell-Donald Road and Glenorchy-Rupanyup and Glenorchy-Murtoa Road are ones that come to mind.
"You get complaints from the car drivers, the ones that have to meet these vehicles on the road. Road fatalities are greater on these roads than the state average, so it's time something was done. C-Class roads seem to be the ones that get neglected."
Cr Erwin said the group was seeking a meeting with Victorian Roads Minister Ben Carroll, and hoped for a commitment in the state budget, due to be handed down in October of November.
"We want to see widening of the shoulders so two vehicles can pass safely instead of one or both having to get off the road, and addressing of roughness and safety around intersections," he said.
"Agricultural equipment has also gotten a lot larger over the past decade or two, so to pass safely on roads is a bit of a challenge sometimes."
The group estimates $300 million is needed to completely upgrade the region's C-Class roads.
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