28 August 2023

Bloody tough: Cape York truck drivers slam state of PDR

| Matt Nicholls
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Truck drivers are fed up with the poor quality of the PDR’s dirt sections, which they say hamper their ability to provide an essential service.

FREIGHT carriers in Cape York say they have had a gutful of being ignored by the state government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, who refuse to keep the Peninsula Developmental Road graded throughout the dry season.

Cape York Weekly spoke to a number of truck drivers and transport companies last week, some on the record and some off the record.

All of them agreed that TMR wasn’t up to the job and failed to listen to their concerns.

Many said that the roads were so bad it was putting pressure on drivers to keep accurate log book hours due to the slow speeds being driven.

“It’s bloody tough when you are taking five hours to get 100km up the road,” said one truck driver.

“If you are carting cattle it becomes an animal welfare issue, too. The logbook says you’ve got to stop and have a rest, but you have a load of cattle on board.”

Simon Tuxworth, who runs Tuxworth and Woods trucking company with his family out of Cairns, said more needed to be done to keep the dirt sections of the PDR in better condition.

“Water seems to be an issue because they don’t seem to be using much of it,” he said.

“These dry grades are not getting it done. They last about two days.”

Mr Tuxworth said his drivers were told to drop back to second gear and let the truck roll along at around 20km/h on the worst of the corrugations.

“It’s the only way you can do it without stalling,” he said.

A Tuxworth and Woods truck crawls along the PDR’s corrugations, travelling at around 20km/h.

One truck company called Cape York Weekly last week to complain about the presence of Department of Transport officials checking heavy vehicles at Mount Carbine. Several truck drivers were fined.

Mr Tuxworth said his company was also the victim of the inspections.

“I think they got us for a light that wasn’t working. But when you drive back from the Cape there’s always something that breaks.

“A mirror might fall off or a battery box will break. I don’t agree with them booking drivers on their way home from the Cape.

“On the way up, that’s fair enough.”

Deb Gostelow from Gostelow’s Cattle and Freight said the PDR was as bad as it had ever been.

READ ALSO OPINION: Fix up the roads and save on freight subsidy

“We’ve been going up there our whole life and the dirt sections are just horrendous,” she said.

“It took three-and-a-half hours to go from Musgrave to Yarraden. That’s a disgrace.

“TMR will grade it early in the year and the road is beautiful but it keeps going backwards as the year goes on. They should have graders on there throughout the year.”

Ms Gostelow said traffic numbers in the Cape dictated more workers.

“Twenty years ago the road wouldn’t fall apart like it does now but the amount of cars and caravans on the PDR is growing every year,” she said.

“I’m not sure what we have to do to get heard but it makes it bloody tough to run a business when you’re trying to cart cattle and freight on these roads.”

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