Take trucks off the road and you lose your cornflakes

By: Jason Whittaker

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Stuart St Clair has hit out at claims road freight should be switched to rail

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Stuart St Clair has hit out at claims road freight should be switched to rail in order to ease urban congestion.

As part of the Victorian Government’s Transport Legislation Review, which is looking at ways of modernising Victoria’s archaic Transport Act 1983, local governments, individuals, peak bodies as well as industry officials have submitted papers outlining what changes they think should be made to Victoria’s transport system.

Some community groups, councils and individuals called for trucks to be banned from roads, placed under curfews or forced to pay more to use residential areas. Most wanted freight switched to rail, which the groups argued would reduce congestion, increase safety and slash greenhouse emissions.

But St Clair has dismissed the views as "fanciful thinking", questioning the logic of such submissions.

"It’s not trucks that cause congestion," he says. "There are 13 million cars in Australia and there is a million a year coming on to the market."

St Clair has called anti-truck groups and individuals to "get it all into perspective" as there are about 400,000 trucks on the road, meaning cars are contributing more to greenhouse emissions.

"They are the ones pumping out the juice and we must never forget that," he says.

And while the ATA supports freight by rail, St Clair says it is not possible for goods to be delivered to cities except in a truck. He says rail can only go as far as the terminal; without trucks, supermarket shelves will run dry.

"Put as much as you can on rail, but always remember that everything has got to be delivered by truck," St Clair says.

"How are they going to get their Cornflakes?"

St Clair has also taken aim at people complaining of trucks taking over local streets.

"Eighty percent of the road freight is done in the metropolitan areas of the major capital cities," he says. "Only eight percent is between cities."

Trying to push rail freight will not solve congestion issues, according to St Clair.

Rather, the ATA is calling for more freight links as an answer to congestion, which may also bring environmental benefits.

"If you reduce road congestion you will end up obviously lowering greenhouse gases because your trucks are not going to be sitting their idling," he says.

The ATA is currently lobbying the Rudd Government to deliver on its election promises of increased funding for road infrastructure.

St Clair says the ATA is focussing on industrial areas and ports, links and upgrades on and around highways in order to boost traffic flows and create a more efficient transport industry.

There is one stumbling block, however, in the form of local governments. St Clair says local government-controlled roads have different rules and regulations, especially ones not marked as higher mass limits (HML) routes.

He says operators are sometimes forced to drop some of their load in order to meet council requirements.

"It’s crazy stuff," he says.

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