Trucking industry singled out as Victorian transport laws reviewed

By: Jason Whittaker


Despite its importance in the transport supply chain, the trucking industry is being marginalised by a review into Victoria’s transport

Despite its importance in the transport supply chain, the trucking industry is being marginalised by a review into Victoria’s transport system.

The Brumby Government last year commissioned the Transport Legislation Review into the Transport Act 1983 in order to look at modernising the Act in accordance with changes in the transport sector.
As part of the review, a discussion paper was released asking various groups to state what they wanted to see in new transport legislation.

The discussion paper was limited to eight questions, ranging from topics such as the importance of integration and coordination, safety and security, efficiency and reliability, value, environmentally sensitive, socially inclusive and a system that supports economic growth.

Peak bodies, lobby groups, local governments and individuals responded to the discussion paper, detailing what they wanted in Victoria’s transport system.

The Government received 77 submissions, which, according to Minister for Public Transport Lynne Kosky, will be used to develop a new Transport Act.

The trucking industry might have expected to receive support in the submissions considering research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows transport and logistics accounts for 14.5 percent of GDP, while 75 percent of freight is carried by trucks.

However, the industry found itself under attack from a number of respondents, who called for the removal of trucks from roads, an increase in charges and for the Brumby Government to mandate more freight be carried by rail.

The City of Boroondara, in its submission, wanted an end to operators accessing arterial networks and for the Government to push rail over road freight.

"Consideration should be given to the role that existing or an upgraded rail network could play in alleviating pressures on the arterial road network from freight movements," the submission reads.

The Transport Connections Project, which encompasses Corangamite, Moyne and Warrnambool, echoed these sentiments, saying "further rail upgrading and intermodal transport centres are needed to put a brake on the rapid increase in road-borne freight across the state".

The project also blamed the trucking industry for the road damage, congestion and pollution in Victoria.

"Unfortunately, in our region of Victoria main roads (and the Princes Highway in particular) have been damaged by heavy freight and have become dangerous for all road users," the councils say.

In another submission, an individual respondent said Victorian roads would be automatically safer if trucks were removed. The respondent called on the Government to charge trucking operators "to pay for the full cost of wear and tear they cause to our roads" as well as for as much freight as possible to be transported via rail.

An anti-trucking group wanted trucking operators forced away from residential streets because 40 percent of trucks using Maribyrnong had no local origin or destination. The Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) called for curfews in certain areas day and night, "rigorously enforced truck bans on the residential streets", as well as a ban from using Francis Street, which will severely limit access to the Westgate Bridge.

MTAG called for more freight to be carried by rail, arguing for the Government to subsidise or to provide financial incentives for rail operators.

The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) says an "efficient and reliable system" is one that involves a "shift from road freight to rail freight".

The rail over road argument is likely to cause consternation to the trucking industry, which is trying to stress the benefits of road freight.

Manager of the Australian Trucking Association of NSW (ATA NSW) Jill Lewis says it is cheaper for goods to be transported via truck.

"Forcing businesses to transport their products by rail would directly increase the cost of groceries, building materials, and a host of other products used by Australian families," Lewis says.

Furthermore, Lewis says road freight takes half the time to deliver cargo, with only 45 percent of rail cargo arriving on time.

"The rail system can’t deliver the most basic of supplies like food, medicines and building materials in urban areas," Lewis says.

FOCUS ON ROAD UPGRADES
The trucking industry did have some support, however, with the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) calling for a focus on road upgrades.

"The regulatory regime should have a significant focus on the infrastructure standards, and the road rules, necessary to promote safe and efficient travel of freight," the VFF submission argued.

"Improving infrastructure is the key to increasing freight efficiency."

The Port of Melbourne Corporation raised concerns the trucking industry was being ignored, as many respondents took the term transport to mean public transport.

"We are concerned…that the greater community interest in passenger transport…may result in a bias against the interests of improving the effectiveness of Victoria’s freight transport system," the PoMC’s submission said.

The VLGA referred to public transport as a "primary" issue, one more important than road improvements. Furthermore, an individual submission listed key current transport issues as "inadequacy of cycling infrastructure", "inadequate public transport" and "poor frequencies of all public transport".

The PoMC’s submission says the Port of Melbourne’s importance as well as freight transport was more important than the public transport system.

"The Port of Melbourne is Australia’s dominant container port and a critical link in Victoria’s and Australia’s main freight corridors," the submission says.

"It is not sustainable economically for passenger transport to be the priority with freight transport a residual and/or secondary issue."

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