Councils demand final say on truck access conditions

Councils resist any attempt to deny them control over road access conditions, and take a shot at trucking operators

Councils demand final say on truck access conditions
Councils want final say on truck access conditions
By Brad Gardner | May 17, 2011

A local government group has resisted any attempt to deny councils the right to determine road access conditions for trucking operators.

The Local Government Association of South Australia has written to the National Transport Commission (NTC) saying councils must continue to be involved in access approvals once national heavy vehicle regulations are introduced in 2013.

The group, which is the peak representative body for South Australian councils, has rejected a proposal outlined in the draft heavy vehicle national regulations allowing the "relevant road authority" to override a council’s decision to ban heavy vehicles from certain roads.

"This raises the question of who is responsible should a liability issue arise as a result of the road being used by a heavy vehicle that the Council deemed unsuitable for such use," the association writes.

It says any talk of increased heavy vehicle access must be done after consultation at a council and regional level and that councils must take into account amenity requirements and ensure vehicles are fit for purpose.

"Residents living in residential areas do no expect at some future time to have to contend with freight routes that transect their suburbs which were not anticipated at the time of development or property purchase," it writes.

"Many roads have not been constructed either to a design or with materials that would support heavy vehicular use. This raises issues such as safety, upgrading and ongoing maintenance."

The group says current road funding levels are inadequate to meet the cost of maintaining and upgrading the existing road network and that granting greater access to heavy vehicles will put more pressure on councils.

It says local governments spent $267 million on road construction and maintenance in the 2008-2009 financial year – about 15 percent of total local government expenditure.

But extra cash to upgrade roads is unlikely to be the only factor councils consider when determining access applications.

"Councils also have a community service obligation that is not necessarily aligned with the freight efficiency model," the association says.

In its response to the NTC, the group also takes a shot at trucking operators. It accuses them of ignoring load limits, route restrictions and speeding signs. It fears any decline in roadside enforcement will only exacerbate the situation.

"Councils contend that if its roads are to be opened up to heavy vehicles operators there should be an expectation that any conditions associated with the access should be enforced by the [National Heavy Vehicle] Regulator."

Sections of the trucking industry, particularly those operating under higher mass limits, have complained of being hindered by local government restrictions.

In one example of a council refusal to grant access, Albury-based company Border Express was forced to pull up 600 metres short of its destination.

Released by the NTC in February, the draft document on national regulations outlines proposals to reform regulatory inconsistencies to improve productivity and efficiency.

The regulations will be introduced in 2013 and overseen by the regulator, which will be based in Queensland with offices throughout Australia.

A lengthy consultation process on the proposals was held from February through to early this month.

The NTC plans to use the feedback from stakeholders to hold targeted consultation sessions before a final proposal on national regulations is submitted to Australia’s transport ministers to vote on later this year.

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