LIFE AT THE TOP END: A fuel truck on Thursday Island ...working in a paradise.
LIFE AT THE TOP END: A fuel truck on Thursday Island ...working in a paradise.

TI Trucking a different gear

WHILE the majority of truckies are used to travelling long distances across this vast country to keep Australia moving it is vastly different at the Torres Strait islands.

At these northern outposts of Australia the road transport industry is very different to trucking at most parts of the mainland.

Most of the islands in the Torres Strait have no more than 10km of bitumen road but trucks play a vital part in everyday life.

While fuel costs between $2 and $3 a litre or more the costs don't have such an impact, which is in stark comparison to most other places.

Thursday Island (TI) has a population of about 2500.

It is the business centre of numerous islands in the Torres Strait and has a lot of trucks, despite being a water-surrounded fortress.

Goods are delivered by barge and arrive at TI depots and then most of it is delivered by trucks.

TI truckies will tell you they have the most scenic jobs, which would be the envy of others everywhere.

"We have wonderful jobs and get to look at the sea and catch a fish after work," former Victorian truckie Graham McLean said.

There is no airstrip on TI and all plane passengers land at Horn Island, which is just across the sea and about a 15-minute cruise in one of the two ferries.

On Horn Island there are some wrecks of old American World War II trucks from a time when the Torres Strait was at the forefront of the defensive line in case of a Japanese invasion.

I travelled by plane to Mabuyag Island, where there are just three trucks, after having spent three days on Badu Island, which has a population of about 1200.

Boigu is Australia's northern outpost, being about 5km from PNG. The major form of transport for residents is outboard-powered dinghy and most residents own one to fish in.

Up there such dinghies are referred to as Kingswoods.

But trucks play a vital role in life on Torres Strait islands and will continue to do so.

A lot of older models that have finished their working life on TI are barged to islands to stop them being permanently retired.

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