Fed-up driver calls for action as deadly 'game' risks lives
"WHEN are they going to stop? We don't need another fatality.”
Those are the words of truck driver Sonja White, who is fed up with the life-threatening "game” youths are playing by throwing rocks at trucks - and the response from the federal and state governments when it comes to doing something about it.
While rock throwing isn't a new incident - or one isolated to towns such as Moree or Burke in outback New South Wales - it's one that is not going away any time soon.
And, Sonja says, nothing is being done about it to protect the "truckies who are just trying to do their jobs”.
Sonja said Moree had long been a hotspot for this particular behaviour and she wasn't happy with what the local council or police were doing to solve it.
So, she wrote a letter to the country's officials to see what could be done.
What she wasn't expecting, however, was a reply seven months later, from Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.
Especially not his response.
"The Deputy Prime Minister is sorry to read that local drivers in your community are being targeted and have been injured by rock throwers over the bypass,” the reply read.
"I note your concern for truck drivers using the bypass, however this is primarily a matter for the police and NSW Governments.”
The Deputy PM directed Sonja to contact NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey.
Sonja said she did just that, but as of Big Rigs' print deadline, had not heard back from the minister.
"I thought it was appalling,” she said of the Deputy PM's response.
"I thought it was passing the buck. Seriously, look into it, do something about it, just don't palm it off.”
Sonja said she took matters into her own hands and asked members of the Facebook group, Report the Rock Throwing, to put their heads together to come up with a solution.
"It's a very frightening experience and we don't need another fatality,” she said.
"If the South Australian government can try and do something about it, why isn't the NSW Government doing something?”
While some suggested truck drivers avoid areas of known rock throwers, Sonja slammed that idea.
"Blocking the town isn't going to solve the issue - why make the whole town suffer?”
Andy Hill, from Central Australian Sidelifter Haulage in Alice Springs, said his business had been targeted by rock throwers, even on their short journey from the rail yard to the supermarket.
"The path we have to take is fraught with danger,” he said.
Rock throwers struck his trucks earlier in the year and the incidents thrust the issue into the local spotlight.
"They (local police, council and governments) did quite a bit to try and quell it, but it came back as soon as they took the pressure off. It still goes on today and it's just not trucks, it's cars, it's everyone on the road,” he said.
"It's not isolated to us here, it's Wilcannia, it's Bourke, it's in Queensland, it's rife.
"Moree is being mentioned more than once or twice and Adelaide is putting up fences.”
Andy said it was "out of our hands, we can't control what they're going to do to our trucks or drivers”.
"How do you minimise the risk when you've gotta get out and do your job when it's out of your hands?”
He said everyone was "full of sorrow” and the local council helped a lot, but there was "only so much they can do”.
"I'm just bashing my head against a brick wall. It's cold here and when it starts to warm up, they'll be out there again.”
Big Rigs contacted Ms Pavey's office for comment, however received a statement back from a Roads and Maritime Services representative.
"Rock throwing around the Moree bypass has been reported in several locations,” it said.
"Roads and Maritime has provided $600,000 to Moree Plains Shire Council, which maintains the Moree bypass, for preventative measures including lighting, CCTV installation along the bypass, removal of vegetation and other forms of concealment and educational initiatives.
"Deliberately throwing rocks at moving vehicles is a serious offence which may cause serious injury or death and all incidents should be reported to
"Roads and Maritime continues to work with council, NSW Police, rail authorities, community groups and community leaders to address these issues in Moree.”
A NSW Police representative said officers "regularly conducted proactive patrols across the state, including at Moree and Bourke, and would take action against those involved in rock throwing”.
The statement also said police had spoken with local youth about the consequences of this type of behaviour.
"The community can assist police by immediately reporting any suspicious behaviour via Crime Stoppers on 1800333000.”
The representative said the act of throwing objects (including rocks) at vehicles was a crime, regardless of whether a vehicle was hit, and penalties included imprisonment of up to five years.