Bigger trucks needed, but BITRE not sold

The ATA is calling for use of bigger trucks, but government department is not sold on the idea

Bigger trucks needed, but BITRE not sold
Bigger trucks needed but BITRE not sold
By Brad Gardner | September 30, 2010

The trucking lobby wants higher productivity vehicles to be given greater access to the road network despite a government department raising concerns about the trucks.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has used the latest road freight figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) to argue the case for super B-doubles and B-triples.

According to the BITRE report, the overall road freight task will grow 2.67 percent per annum to almost double (1.8 times) between 2008 and 2030.

The interstate task is expected to more than double (2.3 times) and capital city freight will grow 1.7 times over the same period.

"To deliver these products efficiently, we will need to be able to use safer trucks with greater capacity on more roads," ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says.

Super B-doubles are capable of carrying two 40 foot containers and St Clair says they can halve the number of truck trips and reduce the number of kilometres travelled by 25 percent.

"Two B-triples can do the work of three B-doubles or five semi-trailers," he says.

While noting the industry is keen for an increase in vehicle length and weight, the BITRE has warned government to be cautious.

"Such change has the potential to increase road damage and have adverse road safety impacts," it claims in the report.

"There are also the potential environmental consequences of increased truck movements – in terms of increased road noise in urban areas, increased air pollution in all capital cities, and the potential increase in greenhouse emissions."

The BITRE cites a report by RARE Consulting for possible solutions to meeting the growth in the freight task, including cleaner fuels for heavy vehicles, improving rail freight’s competitiveness and the introduction of freight hubs.

"Further, infrastructure investment can also improve the efficiency of freight transport by roads in Australia," the department says.

The comments made by the BITRE on road safety contradict an industry-wide belief the larger vehicles are safer than conventional combinations.

"They have better roll stability by design, their drivers are licensed to a higher standard, and they can carry more freight. As a result, operators need fewer trucks to do the same work, which reduces the overall risk of accidents on the road," St Clair says.

The trucks must also go through the performance based standards (PBS) scheme, which imposes strict safety benchmarks operators must meet before using the vehicles on the road.

Higher productivity vehicles are currently limited to work in and around ports and areas such as the Green Triangle.

At a recent livestock transporters conference in Perth, National Transport Commission (NTC) Commissioner Greg Martin put the onus on the trucking industry on higher productivity vehicles.

"Driver behaviour is very much what’s going to determine whether the community is prepared to accept these vehicles and an increase in the number of these vehicles in the future," he told the conference.

The latest figures from the BITRE show the growth in the overall freight task will outstrip the rate of population growth (1.58 percent a year) and will increase alongside GDP growth (2.7 percent per annum).

Broken down, the figures show the growth of the interstate task will vary from jurisdiction.

"Interstate road freight growth is forecast to be higher in Queensland, while rest of road freight growth is forecast to grow faster in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, compared to other states and territories," the BITRE report says.

Freight along the route from the Northern Territory to South Australia is expected to increase by more than 6 percent between 2008 and 2030.

However, the routes from the Territory to NSW and NSW to Western Australia are forecast to grow by less than 2 percent.

"Although the global financial crisis will dampen total interstate road freight growth during the early years of forecast period, it is forecast to increase at an average annual growth rate of 3.8 percent from 2008 to 2030," the BITRE says.

"Among individual capital cities, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth are forecast to more than double, while Adelaide is forecast to grow at a slower rate than other capital cities."

The rise in the capital city freight task will push the number of tonnes per kilometre from 40.15 billion to 66.60 billion between 2008 and 2030 or 2.33 percent annually.

Nationally, tonnes per kilometre will grow from 191.5 billion to 342.03 billion between 2008 2030.

In its report, the BITRE also cites the importance of the trucking industry to the economy.

It says road transport contributed 1.7 percent of national GDP last year and is valued at nearly $18 billon.

"The road freight transport industry is an important industry not only in its own right but also in terms of its role in the general economy," the report says.

It refers to trucking as "a vital link" in the supply chain because it provides freight access to ports and terminals and urban distribution centres between warehouses and retail outlets.

"It is also the dominant mode for moving freight over relatively short distances and where alternatives are not readily available," the BITRE says.

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