Upgrades made range more dangerous: Angry truckies
TRUCK drivers believe the $80 million upgrade of the Toowoomba Range has made the stretch of road more dangerous for heavy vehicles, saying they routinely add dozens of kilometres to their journeys so they can avoid it.
Discussions about safety on the Range have been revived in the days following last Friday's truck rollover that caused all-day traffic delays.
Truck driver Rod Hannifey would rather take the notorious Cunningham's Gap than face the newly-upgraded Toowoomba Range.
The veteran truckie and industry advocate said the latest upgrades to the 16km stretch, which were completed in 2014, have made the road steeper near the section known as the Saddle.
Do you believe the Toowoomba Range is more dangerous for trucks now?
This poll ended on 08 September 2017.
Yes, it's become far more dangerous
No, it was always a tough road for trucks
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
He questioned whether the Department of Transport and Main Roads consulted with truck drivers before the 2013 upgrades.
"The comments (from other truck drivers) are that they've changed the alignment of the road where they've built that new road coming off it, (so that when) you turn left, that incline is now the steepest part of the range," he said.
"Why would you make a range steeper than it was? Why would you make it worse?
"The biggest thing is they've increased the angle in the new section, and I'm not technically qualified to say whether they've changed the surface, but it's a slippery surface (right now)."
Seventy-six serious crashes, resulting in three deaths, occurred on the Range between 2010 and 2014.
It has also seen two truck-related crashes in the past month, with the latest incident on Friday causing gridlock on a road that carries 20,000 vehicles daily.
Former Toowoomba resident and truck driver Roz Turner, who runs one of the biggest truckie networks in Australia, ranked the Range as one of the five most dangerous crossings in Australia for heavy vehicles.
"I think since they've upgraded, they've made it worse," she said.
"The biggest problem with (the) road building is they took the corners out of it.
"People drive slower when there's corners. You straighten the road out, people drive faster naturally.
"My son in law is a truck driver and he used to use the Toowoomba Range all the time, but now he doesn't."
The upcoming Toowoomba Second Range Crossing is expected to be heavily used by truck drivers once it opens in late 2018, something Ms Turner welcomed.
"The sooner they get that bypass done, the better," she said.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport and Main Roads confirmed the highway was straightened when upgrades began after the 2011 floods caused severe damage.
"The Toowoomba Range works involved stabilising steep slopes above the westbound (up) lanes, cutting the slopes back to a 45-degree angle and protecting them from further erosion, as well as the installation of drainage and rock fencing," he said.
"Due to the significant damage to the batter slopes above eastbound (down) lanes the decision was taken to construct a new 1.2 km eastbound section as a cost-effective alternative to purely repairing the damage from the 2011 and 2013 floods.
"The road was shifted away from the severely damage areas and straightened to minimise the overall length of road and improve safety on what was previously a very windy section of the range with tight curves and the scene of a number of crashes over the years."