Whenever Brisbane-based truck driver Dale passes through Moree, he sits a little higher in his seat and braces himself, just waiting for a rock to come through his windscreen one day.
That day came on April 25 when Dale was driving north along the bypass on the Newell Highway.
It was the one time he wasn’t thinking about being hit by a rock, so of course, that is exactly what happened.
“Normally it is on my mind,” Dale said.
“I go through Moree at least once or twice a week; it’s always on your mind when you come through. You try and sit higher in your seat just to protect yourself, so your head is above windscreen level. It’s definitely something all truck drivers think about going through there. I thought, ‘it will happen to me one day’.
“So I was on the phone not thinking about it - it’s normally something I’m conscious of.
“And then I heard this bang, bang, bang, bang. It gave me an awful fright.”
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As soon as he was hit, Dale pulled up opposite the train station, just before the traffic lights.
“I went for a run up the road knowing full-well I wasn’t going to catch anyone but I was going to give it a go,” he said.
I go through Moree at least once or twice a week; it’s always on your mind when you come through.Dale, Brisbane-based truck driver
“I had a look around and the rock was sitting on the bullbar.
“It had hit the stoneguard – luckily it was that and it didn’t come through the windscreen. It put a dent in that and somehow dropped down on the front of the bullbar.”
Later, Dale also noticed there was a dent and a scratch on the side of his cab which wasn’t there before, which made him think that there were possibly multiple rocks thrown at his truck.
Although he wasn’t hopeful of the culprit/s being caught, Dale called police so that the incident was “another one reported”.
This wasn’t the first time Dale has been a victim of rock-throwing – he’s previously experienced it twice before in his 12 to 15 years as a truck driver – however it was his first experience in Moree.
He said while rock throwing isn’t isolated to Moree, Moree is “the place it’s really on your mind”.
Dale said the biggest issue is that he, and many other truck drivers, are beginning to avoid driving through Moree at night.
“We’ve actually got to run to regulated hours, we’ve got a log book and have got so many hours to work and to rest,” he said.
“Say I leave Melbourne at about 7, 8pm at night, if I was to keep going I can get up past Moree to the Boolooroo rest area. But I generally only go as far as Gilgandra or Bellata.
“The problem is, if I come out of Melbourne and get to Bellata at 9am and have to stop for seven hours or nine hours, that would put me into Moree at night.
“I’ll get to Bellata or sometimes to Gurley and think, no, I want to go through Moree in the daylight.
“Blokes are thinking, they might be tired but they want to get through Moree in the daylight.
“I know for a fact people are avoiding it at night.
“It isn’t just me; a lot of the guys are expecting it to happen to them one day. They do frequent the place.”
Dale said the issues goes deeper than just rocks being thrown at trucks.
“It’s not just a matter of trucks getting damaged - if we get hit in the head, we could easily go across the road and come into a family in a car,” he said.
“We’ve got enough to worry about.
“We’re doing 5,000, 6,000km a week. I love it, it’s not the sort of job you’d do if you didn’t like it. But we do have enough on our plates as it is.
“I’ve got a four-year-old and a two-year-old and a wife waiting at home for me.”
Although he’s not sure what can be done to combat the issue, Dale just knows that something needs to be done before it’s too late.
There is currently a petition running which is calling for tougher penalties for juveniles caught throwing rocks.