DOUBLETROUBLE

By MEL MARTIN

COFFS Coast residents can expect to see a lot more trucks along the Pacific Highway over the next few years as communities and demand for goods increase, according to NSW Road Transport Association corporate relations manager Hugh McMaster.

In fact, Mr McMaster says road freight is set to double in the next 15 years, and grow even faster on the east coast, in line with population growth.

"We need food, building materials and all sorts of supplies," Mr McMaster said.

"These can only be delivered by truck. In fact, all freight delivered to and from the Coffs Harbour region moves by truck."

Mr McMaster was in Coffs Harbour yesterday, updating around 50 Mid North Coast road transport operators on the latest developments affecting the industry, including the recent industrial relations changes, the new occupational health and safety legislation, a shortage of truck drivers, and the Pacific Highway upgrade.

Mr McMaster said the transport industry was keen to see State and Federal Governments put more resources into upgrading the Pacific Highway.

"We want to see the Pacific Highway upgraded to four lanes from Hexham to the Queensland border. At the moment, about 30 per cent is four lanes," Mr McMaster said.

And that, he added, was a recipe for disaster.

"There is too much traffic and it's a volatile mix of locals trying to go about their business, tourists who may not know the road very well, and trucks and buses on both long- and short-distance trips for business purposes.

"So when you've got single lanes, with no opportunities to overtake and changes in speed limits, you've got a heightened risk of a serious crash."

The Pacific Highway has the highest level of fatal and serious injury crashes of any road in NSW, but Mr McMaster says a dual carriageway could reduce them by 80 per cent and would alleviate noise issues.

But upgrade or no upgrade, with the trip between Newcastle and Brisbane almost one hour quicker on the Pacific Highway than on the New England Highway, the trucks are not going away.

"Realistically, we need to accept B-doubles are part and parcel of our roads," Mr McMaster said.



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