Fuelling dangerous speculation
BALLINA will be without a 24-hour petrol station when the Caltex Big Prawn closes on February 1, and the trucking industry says it could lead to a dangerous situation in which drivers will be forced to ‘push on’ even if they are tired.
The Caltex confirmed it will shut off its bowsers at 6am next Monday.
Currently, it is the only major stop for truck and bus drivers between Grafton and Chinderah, a three-hour drive on one of the worst sections of the Pacific Highway.
Transport Workers’ Union North Coast delegate, Bill Patterson, said the closure of the Big Prawn would have a big impact on the industry.
“Buses use it, truckies use it and the general public uses it,” he said.
“This is a huge concern. There will be nowhere for drivers to pull up and have a break.
“So it’s something that could potentially be quite dangerous.
“Our members can pull up at a rest stop on the highway, but there’s nowhere for them to have a coffee or a cold drink. Fatigue could set in,” Mr Patterson said.
According to NRMA Motoring and Services, up to 30 per cent of all fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles are linked to fatigue.
But Reliance Petroleum could take some of the pressure off.
The company said it is planning to open its North Ballina BP petrol station on a 24-hour basis early next month.
Bruce Jones, the manager of sales and distribution for Reliance Petroleum which also owns the Big Pineapple BP at West Ballina, said the company was still working through some internal staffing issues.
He could not confirm exactly when it would start opening 24 hours.
And Mr Jones said the service station would only stay open around the clock while it was viable, considering the Ballina bypass is scheduled for completion in 2012.
Lennox Head developer Chris Condon is planning to build a new service centre on the bypass at the Teven Road interchange.
With the Caltex closing down next week, Greyhound buses have already moved the pick-up/drop-off point to the Tamar Street bus interchange.