ALC advocates shake-up of local government regulations

Toll's and Woolworths' battles with local government regulation sparks call from ALC for change

ALC advocates shake-up of local government regulations
ALC advocates shake-up of local government regulations

By Brad Gardner | November 2, 2011

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) is advocating for a shake-up of local government regulations to improve heavy vehicle access conditions and land-use planning decisions.

The lobby group has responded to the Productivity Commission’s issues paper on local government business regulation, raising concerns over the decision-making process on higher mass limits (HML), truck curfews and a lack of focus on transport infrastructure.

Highlighting Toll’s and Woolworths’ run-ins with councils, the ALC has recommended a stocktake of local government regulations impacting on the transport and logistics sector.

It wants the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to strike a national agreement on land-use planning prioritising the efficient operation of ports and nationally significant infrastructure.

"So as to enhance the productivity of the Australian economy, ALC believes COAG should consider this proposal as one of the next steps along the road to regulatory reform," it says.

Under the ALC’s plan, a fund will be set up to compensate state and local governments which incur costs from making land-use decisions that benefit nationally significant infrastructure over other interests.

"More generally, there is scope…to review the manner in which land use regulation generally frustrates the efficient operation of existing transport networks," the ALC says.

Bankstown City Council in 2008 denied a request from Toll for HML access to its road network. It voted in 2007 to indefinitely defer all HML requests until it received information from the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority on route assessments.

Although saying the council’s concerns on the impact of heavier trucks on its road network are appropriate, the ALC writes: "rather than weighing each application on its merit, it simply deferred all requests for access for an indefinite period of time, whilst tests were carried out."

"This type of indefinite delay can add significant costs to operators."

The ALC says many councils do not have the skills and resources to assess their network or make informed decisions about road access. The group goes on to say that HML is not a priority for some.

"Regrettably, on occasion decision making can be either inconsistent or capricious," the ALC submission says.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will review access decisions on a yearly basis, and the ALC says it will advocate for the review to be made public.

The ALC also wants restrictive truck curfews and trailer sizes looked at, in line with recommendations from Woolworths. Both Toll and Woolworths are members of the ALC.

"This restriction on the use of larger trailers has been estimated by Woolworths to limit their freight capacity by 10 to 12 per cent due to the requirement for additional runs," the ALC says.

Woolworths has in the past supported a review of regulations affecting retailers, particularly the hours in which trucks can deliver goods to stores.

The Productivity Commission released its issues paper in September after Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten requested it to benchmark local government regulations and examine their impact on businesses.

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