Poor roads will play 'havoc' on truckers during harvest

Dodgy roads have the potential to derail a bumper grain harvest in NSW, with warnings they will cause "havoc"

Poor roads will play 'havoc' on truckers during harvest
Poor roads will play 'havoc' on truckers during harvest
By Brad Gardner | October 4, 2010

Dodgy roads have the potential to derail a bumper grain harvest in NSW, with warnings they will cause "havoc" to trucking operators and problems for farmers.

The NSW Farmers Association says not enough funds are being spent on key local and arterial roads to ensure they can support an increase in truck movements during what is expected to be a bumper season.

Mark Hoskinson, who chairs the group’s Farmers Grains Committee, says local governments are struggling to repair and upgrade routes due to a lack of money and heavy rainfall. He says the weather has caused bitumen on some arterial routes to lift.

"The councils just haven’t got the funding coming through from government to do the repairs. The dirt roads are a mess because of the wet weather," Hoskinson says.

"That’s going to cause a huge amount of havoc to even small trucks. It won’t make a difference whether they’re small or big they’ll be suffering tyre wear."

Hoskinson says farmers might be forced to store grain on their property until the roads dry.

"What will happen is a lot of grain will be stored on farm, which is a problem in itself for pests and quality control and everything," he says.

Despite concerns over the road network, Hoskinson says farmers might still find it best to deal with trucking companies rather than relying on AWB or GrainCorp to shift freight by rail.

He says the dominance of both companies makes it hard for farmers to negotiate a cheap freight rate.

"In some cases it may be cheaper to throw it onto a truck and send it straight to port than going by GrainCorp or AWB," Hoskinson says.

Farmers might have little choice in turning to road transporters to get their goods to market.

NSW Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson recently raised concerns about the state of the rail network, saying lines had deteriorated to the point where they could no longer transport grain.

The latest NSW Grains Report estimates a harvest of 12.57 million tonnes of cereals and 1.44 million tonnes of pulse and oilseeds.

Keira MP David Campbell says the 2010 wheat crop might be the highest-value crop ever produced in NSW.

"Winter crops are thriving and farmers are preparing for what could be the best harvest in more than a decade," he says.

"The bumper crop comprises 2.95 million hectares of wheat, 316,500 hectares of canola, 782,000 hectares of barley and 337,000 hectares of chickpeas."

Chain of responsibility law also has the potential to sting farmers and trucking operators during the harvest.

While saying both parties are aware of their obligations, Hoskinson adds that farms lack weighbridges to accurately determine the weight of a load.

"It makes it very hard to load the truck officially because we haven’t got the weighbridges in the paddock to check it," he says.

"We try and obey the laws as best as practical considering the fact that each load every time you go into a paddock you don’t know what it’s going to weigh."

But he says farmers have been helped by trucking operators because many have fitted gauges to their vehicles to ensure the truck is not overloaded.

Chain of responsibility holds all parties in the supply chain accountable for ensuring a truck load does not breach weight restrictions. Those who fail to comply face fines and convictions.

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