‘Every week there is evidence of another crash’: Trucks blow up ‘Horror Highway’

The Gregory Development Road between Charters Towers and Clermont in Queensland has been described as ‘the highway of horror’, the ‘good, bad and ugly’, and one of the most boring roads for truckers in Australia.

This 368 km stretch is used by hundreds of trucks every day and is a vital inland link serving the mining and ranching industries, as well as many others.

When floods close the Bruce Coastal Highway, the Gregory Development Road becomes even more important for lorries to supply places like the Atherton Tablelands and Far North Queensland.

The road is now fully sealed, but much of it has rough shoulders, the surface is uneven or “up and down” as truckers describe it, and it is prone to flooding after extreme heavy rains.

A Transport and Major Roads (TMR) spokesperson told Big Rigs that the Gregory Development Road is a designated B-double and Type 2 road train route.

“It has been recognized as an important link, along with the Clermont-Alpha road and the Peak Downs and Capricorn highways, as a strategic connection for agriculture and freight, as well as energy resources in the developing Galilee Basin. over the next 20 years. ,” he said.

Most of the highway has a speed limit of 100 km/h, but there are three short “good” sections where you can drive at 110 km/h.

I drove the highway in early January after being told by many truckers over the past year that it was a “Horror Highway.”

They say there are good, bad and bad sides, and describe it as boring because of the few buildings along the way.

Veteran driver Garth Roots had parked his Kenworth T909 manager in several places along the route.

“The surface is up and down and especially difficult to navigate when you’re loaded,” Roots, 72, told me when he pulled up to a setback closer to Clermont.

Driver Jimmy Tatham rated the Gregory Development Road as one of the worst he drives.

“The Towers-Clermont road has rough shoulders in many places and is dangerous and truckers should try to stay clear of them. And it’s up and down and bouncing,” Tatham said.

Gold Coast driver Terry Sharp also said the road needed some care when negotiating it.

“I noticed about two months ago that whoever looks after the Gregory north of Clermont put up signs in eight or nine places warning of ‘deep drop-offs, please drive carefully,'” Sharp said.

“It would have been much safer to repair the shoulders than to leave a known hazard on a road used by Type 2 road trains 53 meters or more in length.”

The narrow 60km long stretch of rough tarmac 30km north of Belyando Crossing with less than second rate shoulders is another disgrace. An insult to anyone who has to use the road, he added.

“We are obligated to drive working trucks, how about an obligation to provide truck-worthy roads.”

Another driver who did not want to be named said there was a standard joke among many truckers regarding the freeway.

“We’re asked, ‘Have you taken your seasickness pills?’ when you ride it because it goes up and down like ocean waves in bad weather. About 50km is like going up a hill and down the valley,” he said.

Testimony to how rough shaking affects drivers are the many parts of truck tires next to the highway, interspersed with a generous sprinkling of dead animals.

Cape River Rest Area

There are only two stops along the highway with truck washrooms and these are the Cape River Rest Area and the Belyando Crossing Roadhouse.

There are no other noteworthy buildings with some station properties and mining operations apart from the road.

The Cape River Rest Area is 105km from Charters Towers and has clean restrooms, concrete tables and seats and parking space for some trucks.

It has a Department of Transport and Trunk Roads (TMR) Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) device, which is now at selected locations in Queensland.

ITS devices, in conjunction with signs at the approach to the rest area, alert approaching heavy vehicles to their current status.

ITS devices also include cameras that can provide live feedback to the Townsville Traffic Management Center for traffic monitoring purposes.

Belyando Roadhouse is 192km from Charters Towers and 172km from Clermont and is a popular truck stop.

It is also the only fuel stop along the route, the closest being the Gold City Roadhouse on the outskirts of Charters Towers and the BP Gregory Highway Roadhouse in Clermont.

I stopped at Belyando Crossing and spoke to worker Griffin Falknau who has been there for eight months.

“We get between 50 and 100 trucks a day that stop here to take a break and use the restroom and grab a bite and a cold drink. The most favorite of drivers is a burger with the lot or a steak. Many drivers are regulars who come when traveling on the highway,” Falknau said.

To be fair, there are regular truck drop-off areas with no facilities.

The TMR spokesperson said there are heavy vehicle rest areas, motorist rest areas and dual purpose rest areas so drivers can stop and rest when needed.

“There are two dual-use rest areas and two heavy vehicle rest areas on Gregory Development Road between Clermont and Charters Towers. A total of 26.79 km of waterproofing work has been carried out on six sections between Clermont and Charters Towers, completed in October and November 2021,” he said.

Traffic volume

With respect to traffic volume along the highway, TMR provided the count data below at the request of Big Rigs.

Sections at 100km/h:

The average daily traffic from the Clermont connection road to the Clermont coal mine access section is 2,053 vehicles (2019), of which 24.45% are heavy vehicles. Of this number, trucks and buses accounted for 13.59%, articulated vehicles 3.99% and road trains 6.7%. The maximum posted speed limit along this section is 100 km/h.

The average daily traffic between the Clermont Coal Mine Access and the Peak Downs Freeway intersection is 1,059 vehicles (2019), of which 30.59% are heavy vehicles. Of this number, trucks and buses accounted for 15.01%, articulated vehicles 5.75% and road trains 10.01%. The maximum posted speed limit along this section is 100 km/h. Average daily traffic between the Peak Downs Highway intersection and Kilcummin-Diamond Downs Road is 520 vehicles (2018), of which 34.04% are heavy vehicles. Of this number, trucks and buses accounted for 10.58%, articulated vehicles 6.73% and road trains 16.73%. The maximum posted speed limit along this section is 100 km/h,” the TMR spokesperson said.

Sections at 110km/h:

The average daily traffic from the Kilcummin-Diamond Downs Road intersection to Belyando River – Noel Burnett Bridge is 621 vehicles (2020), of which 45.89% are heavy vehicles. Of this number, trucks and buses accounted for 18.84%, articulated vehicles 6.60% and road trains 20.45%. The maximum posted speed limit along this section is 110 km/h. The average daily traffic from the Beylando River – Noel Burnett Bridge to Windsor Road is 608 vehicles (2020), of which 38.16% are heavy vehicles. Of this number, trucks and buses accounted for 13.82%, articulated vehicles 7.57% and road trains 16.78%. The maximum speed limit posted on this section is 110 km/h. The average daily traffic between Windsor Road and Charters Towers is 861 vehicles (2020), of which 16.84% are heavy vehicles. Of this number, trucks and buses accounted for 7.9%, articulated vehicles 2.67% and road trains 6.27%.

Footnote: The Gregory Highway runs south from Quartz Blow Creek, a point 31 km west of Mount Surprise on the Gulf Developmental Road, via Charters Towers, to Springsure, over 900 km away.

The 756 km northern section is designated by the state government as the Gregory Development Road.

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