Point scoring on 'monster trucks' sells everyone short


Politicians might like to bleat about "monster trucks" for short-term gain, but the antics could leave us all worse off

By Brad Gardner | October 7, 2011

If you needed a brief reminder of the woeful state that is political debate on higher productivity vehicles, then you needed to look no further than last week’s effort from Tim Pallas.

Mixing fiction with some downright scare mongering, the former Victorian roads minister claimed Premier Ted Baillieu and his crew were covertly plotting to unleash all sorts of "monster trucks" without restrictions on an unwitting populace. His comments, to be frank, were crap.

Pallas claimed a VicRoads bureaucrat had spilled the beans at a recent freight conference on the "secret plan" when discussing the higher productivity vehicle trial currently going on in the state.

Here’s a newsflash Tim: a plan hardly counts as secret when announced to a gathering of people.

And just because VicRoads is considering expanding a trial of larger trucks by opening up more of the road network to them doesn’t mean it’s actually going to happen.

ATN hopes it does, but to claim the government is determined to send higher productivity vehicles rumbling down local streets day and night is arrant nonsense.

Trials were going on when Pallas’s mob was in government and the work on this is an extension of what he agreed to.

This is what he said in September 2009 when announcing the trial of super B-doubles:


"It’s the beginning of a major change to the way we move freight."

"It will target key freight areas in metropolitan Melbourne and the Green Triangle region around Portland and will be conducted under strict safety guidelines – rigorous performance based standards – the industry will need to sign up to."


But when you’re in opposition, it seems anything is worth a shot to get some recognition in the tabloid press.

So Pallas, despite presenting himself as a supporter of higher productivity vehicles while in office, trotted out the "monster truck" line and got the attention of the Herald Sun.

It’s nothing new of course. Ratcheting up community concerns over trucks is a guaranteed winner.

Incumbent Victorian Roads Minister Terry Mulder engaged in a bit of fear when Labor was in power, so too Ports Minister Denis Napthine.

But what politicians don’t realise is their antics have potentially significant consequences on important work being done to try and improve the trucking industry’s safety, productivity, efficiency and environmental footprint.

Anti-truck sentiment is already high within communities, as the Australian Trucking Association and Darebin City Council recently alluded to.

When politicians start misleading the public about "monster trucks" it’s a fair bet a government will look to delay or even scrap work on access for the larger vehicles to keep voters onside.

Pallas might think it a win if Mulder gets skittish and turns his back on the trial, but the trucking industry, business and the wider community will all be worse off if it happens.

The freight task is growing exponentially. Standing still and hoping everything will be all right will not work, unless of course politicians don’t care about increasing congestion, more pollution, more trucks on the road and perhaps higher fatalities.

Higher productivity vehicles are seen as one of the most productive, safe and efficient means of meeting demand.

The National Transport Commission recently estimated 35-metre B-triples, if given greater access to the road network, will slash CO2 emissions by 1.1 million tonnes, reduce truck numbers by at least 1,000, prevent 25 fatalities and generate $1.1 billion in savings between 2011 and 2030.

All politicians need to think about this before next trying to beat the populist drum for their five minutes of glory.

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