Stoner eyes volume loading to lift freight productivity

Acting NSW premier announces in-depth investigation into a volumetric livestock loading scheme to lift freight productivity in the state

By Brad Gardner | November 17, 2011

NSW will investigate the feasibility of a volumetric livestock loading scheme to level the playing field across borders and lift intrastate freight productivity.

Acting NSW Premier and Trade Minister Andrew Stoner today talked up the prospect of the scheme for NSW, which would bring it into line with other states.

The farming and livestock transport sectors have long been calling for a shift to measuring weight by volume, and Stoner used his address to the Northern Co-Operative Meat Company today to commit resources to making it happen.

"NSW is the only state in Australia without a volumetric livestock loading scheme, meaning our farmers, livestock carriers, abattoirs, feedlots and saleyards have to pay higher freight costs compared to competitors in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia," he says.

The Northern Co-Operative Meat Company told Stoner a 26-metre B-double in Queensland can load between 66 and 72 head of cattle, while NSW operators are limited to 56 to 60 beasts.

"The meat company has told me this equates to about an extra 200 truck movements on NSW roads each year – a clear inefficiency," Stoner says.

The NSW Farmers Association wants the government to follow Victoria’s and Queensland’s lead in exempting trucks from vehicle mass limits as long as they meet animal welfare obligations and manufacturer’s ratings.

"The mass requirements are dictated by tare weights and stocking density. The Association calls on the NSW Government to introduce this policy in NSW," it wrote in a submission to Roads Minister Duncan Gay.

"Not only will this increase the productivity of regional NSW, it will also lead to cross-border efficiencies."

According to the NSW Farmers Association, the loading schemes in Queensland and Victoria increase productivity, protect road and bridge infrastructure and reduce the chance of animals being injured.

Stoner says reducing the number of trucks needed to cart livestock can boost safety and productivity while enhancing trade and investment opportunities in rural and regional NSW.

The Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association (LBCA) welcomed Stoner’s announcement, with its President and owner of Hayes Transport, Barney Hayes, saying volumetric livestock loading is a must.

"For too long, the NSW meat and livestock sector has been in a state of decline, while all other key and competing states have enjoyed the benefits of a livestock loading scheme and the resultant sector growth," he says.

Hayes claims the reform could rejuvenate the meat and livestock sector and improve jobs and the economic viability of the meat supply chain. He says local communities could also benefit through a reduction in truck numbers.

"This means less noise, less road congestion and less pollution," Hayes says.

Previous industry attempts at securing volumetric loading have struggled to win support due to concerns a shift away from maximum load limits would damage old bridges and local roads.

Stoner also used his address to the Northern Co-Operative Meat Company to announce another 2200km would be added to the higher mass limits (HML) network, taking it to 20,600km.

In an information paper released in November last year, the NSW Roads and Traffic Auhtority (RTA) said many of the more than 3000 bridges in the state were not capable of supporting loads beyond general mass limits.

The RTA, which has now morphed into the Department of Roads and Maritime Services, claimed at the time volume loading may lead to total vehicle, combination and axle mass levels well in excess of concessional mass limits and HML.

"As a result, volume loading schemes could potentially put NSW road assets at higher risk and do not provide incentives for any party in the livestock transport supply chain to implement safety management and compliant loading practices," the information paper says.

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