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Friday, 10 February 2012

Cars are for Roads, Freight is for Rails

I promised a driving editorial, so here you are...  and yeah, I wrote this.

Cars are for Roads, Freight is for Rails

As I sit behind this truck on a narrow mountain North Queensland road, I can reach only one inescapable conclusion.  Cars belong on the road, Freight belongs on the rails.

The roads where I live are windy, narrow things that ill maintained at best.  Ruts are common and potholes appear every wet season like grey nomads every winter.

The speed limit says 100, but god forbid drivers should actually be able to achieve it.  This isn’t even a big truck, just a little local freight hauler that still can’t get above 60 on a 1% incline.  As we crawl up the hill, truck straining in low gear, and me riding in low gear because I can’t reach the speed I need to take the hill in 5th.

It’s not getting any better anytime soon and I remain disgusted by the railway crossings that have been dug up in Atherton and Tolga last year.

Even as the late great Slim Dusty sings about the enterprise of railroad construction in “Three Rivers Hotel,” I have to recognize that such ambition in that railroad company is dead.  In a typically short sighted move, QR has begun tearing up the small shortlines instead of looking at the big picture.  More mines are due to open up here in the next few years, but seeing as how none of them involve bulk coal, QR is not interested in the potential.  This means more road trains.

I realize our highways and back roads are more and more becoming the domain of the road train.  These heavy freight hauling trucks are limited to less than 100 kph, but can be 50m long.  If we all owned 911s or Astin Martins there wouldn’t be a problem.  But we don’t.  Some of us own old fuel miser shitboxes that would need 500 or more metres of traffic free road to pass one.

Meantime, our highways get torn to crap from this ridiculously heavy tonnage traffic that the roads aren’t at all designed to handle.  The money to “repair” that damage comes out of our pockets in the form of increasing rego fees, fuel taxes, and anything else the government can think of to get it.

Fortunately, this time, the truck in front of me does eventually pull over to allow me to pass, and before we get into a really cool bit of twisty road.  I say goodbye to Slim.  Giving the driver of the truck a wave of appreciation, I accelerate away to the sounds of the Black Eyed Peas pumping out of my sub, getting ready to attack the upcoming corners.

Copyright 2010


  1. Its sad but true todays government doesent give two hoots about anyone west of the range unless you have a mine in your backyard . as the rail is torn up so must the frieght get through . bring on the roadtrains , bigger is better seems toobe . look foward too more of your blog dave ..

  2. Bring on the big road trains and ill drive them, trucks are cheaper than rail, with top operators like me anyway

  3. Top operator? This from the guy who shut down the Bruce Highway for half a day wiping out a truckload of veggies. Or how about the time you slammed your prime mover into a tree only narrowly escaping death by falling below the dashboard height as the tree fell on the cab...

    I'd like to know the cost per ton of shipping by roadtrain and shipping by rail. As I have no doubt rail includes the cost of the infrastructure, so should the cost by roadtrain. However, because highways are not built by the truck companies, I doubt the true cost is anywhere to be found.

    I'm not saying that everything should be shipped rail, mind you. I just suspect far too much is being shipped by truck, particularly outside the densely populated areas.