Councils need to lift their game

Trucking lobby calls on local governments to overhaul their approach to dealing with the trucking industry

Councils need to lift their game
Councils need to lift their game: ATA
By Brad Gardner | October 29, 2012

Local governments are being asked to rethink the way they do business with the trucking industry by overhauling inconsistent and substandard processes hindering heavy vehicle operators.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has lodged a submission with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) review of local government regulation in New South Wales, touching on a number of pressing concerns afflicting the industry.

The ATA wants the more than 150 local governments in the state to adopt consistent regulations across jurisdictions, improve road application processes and put greater emphasis on making sure decisions restricting truck access are evidence based.

It criticises what it says is inconsistency regarding noisy vehicles, the blanket refusal of some councils to allow off-peak truck movements and the ongoing problems operators have gaining access for larger combinations.

"The trucking industry needs local government to take on board its concerns, engage with industry, avoid unnecessary restrictions on its movements and activities, not place onerous costs on the industry, and engage in objective, transparent and fair decision-making," the ATA says.

The submission takes aim at government reasons for denying larger vehicles such as B-doubles and B-triples access to local streets, particularly the claims that trucks are refused entry on the basis of protecting sensitive infrastructure and preventing increases in congestion and noise levels.

The ATA says B-doubles and B-triples are less likely to damage roads and bridges compared to semi-trailers and rigid trucks because the weight of the large combinations is spread over more axles.

Conversely, it says requiring larger trucks to decouple outside towns increases greater infrastructure wear because more prime movers are needed to haul the freight.

The submission says denying trucks access because they are too noisy is "illogical" because motorcycles, which have the same noise level of heavy vehicles, are not subjected to the same limitations.

"If local governments want reasons for their decisions to have some recognised legitimacy grounded in evidence, this inconsistent application must be reviewed," the ATA says.

The group questions the logic of local councils that stop trucks from operating between 6pm and 7am, saying off-peak movements are necessary to reduce congestion.

The submission also details shortfalls in the route application process. The ATA says operators have to wait between two to three months to receive an answer, while complex requests can take several months or be ignored.

It says operators have reported that correspondence with local governments has been misinterpreted, misplaced or lost, adding to delays and frustration.

"Oversight mechanisms, which can reduce time delays and negligent conduct by local governments in their decision-making, need to be implemented," the ATA says.

The submission reiterates the ATA’s call for operators to have access to an external review, such as the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, if route access applications are rejected. It says the existing practice of local governments reviewing a decision lacks transparency.

The ATA also wants local governments to pay closer attention to maps identifying routes available for vehicles accredited under the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme.

It says mapping is incomplete, forcing operators to apply individually to local governments for permission to use the road network.

"It appears that local governments are either not able to identify the routes for PBS maps because of a lack of resources or are not organised enough to do so," the ATA says.

IPART Chairman Peter Boxall says the tribunal’s review of local government compliance and enforcement is designed to find ways to reduce red tape and unnecessary costs.

IPART is due to hand its report to the NSW Government in June next year. Premier Barry O’Farrell launched the review as part of his push to reduce the cost of red tap by $750 million by June 2015.

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