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Anderson seeks community links to support VTA agenda

New CEO looks to change public’s hearts and minds while gaining political backing for road infrastructure


Just a couple of months into his new role, Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Peter Anderson is making progress on a change of direction and approach to Victorian trucking issues.

Anderson makes clear to ATN that a particularly strong focus under his stewardship will be to work on changing public perception of the industry, not least by working with groups and councils involved most closely in the community/industry interface.

He points out that, as part of society and with many of the transport industry’s participants living in affected Melbourne suburbs, it is incumbent on the industry to engage with and negotiate on present and future challenges if it wants its own needs understood and agreed to when decisions are made.

Probably the most obvious example of the new approach has been relations with the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) and the Maribyrnong council, which have been the target of tough VTA responses in the past.

Following the start last month of Somerville Road and Moore Street night curfews near the port for trucks based outside the City of Maribyrnong, MTAG publically thanked Anderson and industry services manager Brad Close “for graciously coming to the table and being willing to listen to our concerns”.  

The VTA plans to work MTAG on traffic-flow issues in future.

“We’ll come out with better results for the community at large,” Anderson says of the strategy.

“The industry has to understand its responsibilities to the broader-based communities.

“It’s not just running a business and pretending that no one else is around you.

“It’s about understanding the truck interaction with many other road users, with many other sectors of the community, and we have to acknowledge that and make sure that we are a proactive and responsible member of the community.”

Looking ahead, the approach may come in handy with construction of the new container terminal at Webb Dock moving apace.

Anderson notes that the terminal lacks the rail infrastructure to shift this freight other than by truck.

It seems unavoidable that this will place added pressure on Port Melbourne suburban roads and the West Gate Bridge.

Though the terminal’s winning bidder, International Container Terminal Services, Inc (ICTSI), has promised close consultation with neighbours, industry observers believe friction on this side of the port cannot be ruled out.

But alongside the community dimension, there has to be industry efficiency dividends, “because we still have businesses that have got to make a profit”.

Anderson is looking to gain regulatory support for a ‘big trucks for big roads’ strategy.

“Push the big trucks on to big roads but make the big roads work for big trucks,” he says.

“It’s a matter of all elements of the infrastructure working together.”

The two strands come together as the VTA hopes to work with Port Phillip council, which controls Bay Street, a strategic eastern approach to the port precinct, for a formula that rationalises and harmonises the use of the route between trucks, car parking, walkers and the burgeoning and lucrative recreational cycling movement, through the use of clearways designated by vehicle type and the time of day.

Anderson will also seek support for the proposal from cycling organisation Bicycle Victoria as part of a truck-bike safety push.

At another level, with a new State Government finding its feet, Anderson says he has agreement from roads minister Luke Donnellan for monthly meetings.

He will have been heartened by the new minister’s backing of technological aids to improve trucking efficiency, the day before the announcement having called for a “hurry up” of the likes of electronic work diaries and telematics.

With the East-West Link mired in government rejection and legal action, Anderson says “any large road infrastructure in important and is supported by the VTA” and points to the North East Link, connecting EastLink with the M80 and completing the ring road as crucial.

“‘That to me is the most important link, because that will take traffic from one side of Melbourne to the other without going through the city,” he says.

He estimates that 30-40 per cent of heavy vehicles that presently go through the city would take the alternative, thereby easing such truck-linked congestion as there otherwise might be on freeways and suburban arterials.

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