Victorian container trucking and logistics under fire

By: Rob McKay

Councils and academics take aim at port-related services and infrastructure

Victorian container trucking and logistics under fire
Container trucking is somewhat besieged in Melbourne


The Victorian container chain and the broader trucking industry are suffering public attacks from several quarters on the systems that bring goods in an out of the state.

While opposition to container trucking around the Port of Melbourne has traditionally focused on close neighbour Footscray and the Maribyrnong council, this has expanded to a grouping of six councils under the LeadWest banner.

And while the industry is fighting against what is viewed as a nation-wide government-backed gouging strategy around the road infrastructure it already uses, the Melbourne industry faces academic questioning of one of the few initiatives in the city that would help – the West Gate Tunnel Project.

University of Melbourne PhD student Nathan Pittman and lecturer John Stone, along with Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University lecturer Sophie Sturup have penned critique on The Conversation website, Impending traffic chaos? Beware the problematic West Gate Tunnel forecasts, warning of weaknesses in forecasting and the assumptions used in modelling.

"The ‘need’ for the tunnel exists only because of the presence of extra road and motorway capacity in the modelling assumptions – and because of the absence of any estimates of the effect on car travel of improved public transport passenger and freight transport alternatives in Melbourne’s rapidly expanding western suburbs," they write.

"The package of roads that will generate traffic growth on the West Gate Bridge and in the proposed tunnel have not yet been built, and there is nothing inevitable about any of it.

"Melbourne’s East West Link and Perth’s Roe 8 both demonstrate that public resistance is not necessarily futile."

While defences of trucking are difficult to find on the website, which is open to other academic views, it has recently hosted a pro-rail attack on the industry in recent weeks.

Unlike the earlier local resistance, LeadWest’s target has grown to include empty container parks as well as the transporters that service them, along with the port itself, which the body wishes to be moved the Bay West region, closer to Geelong.

As reported in The Age newspaper based on its own press release, LeadWest is calling for progress on the stalled Western Interstate Freight Terminal (WIFT) to be built in Truganina, as a way of removing trucks from the inner west.

LeadWest argues that, developing the WIFT and associated freight activity centre "would enable container parks to be relocated and the transport of both full and empty containers to the port occur via rail", adding that, as this type of trucking usually involves slim profit margins, "often the vehicles are old and poor quality, worsening the impacts on communities.

"Empty shipping containers are almost the biggest export from the Port of Melbourne," LeadWest CEO Craig Rowley says.

"Empty shipping containers are stored in container parks in Brooklyn and Tottenham and then trucked in their thousands to the Port of Melbourne along residential streets.

"It's a ridiculous situation that could be solved if the Andrews Government used the money it has already allocated to progress the Western interstate freight terminal."

The Age article quotes Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) director Neil Chambers as saying WIFT will do no such thing.

"As manufacturing declines, imports have increased. And if it's being moved by a truck and a container, it will have an empty container that has to be managed at the end," Chambers says.

However, the council grouping appears not to be entirely anti-transport and logistics, having earlier welcomed the Victorian government's support for the establishment of the Australasian headquarters of CEVA Logistics in Truganina in Melbourne's west.

"It is excellent news for the region's economy that the $80 million, 166,000 square metre supersite will employ 250 workers in Melbourne’s west and create around 40 new positions," it stated in February of the company that handles imported goods through the Port of Melbourne.

"It will be largest facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere – servicing high profile customers including General Motors Holden, Continental Tyres, NBN Co, Michelin, Caltex, Accent Group, Mazda and Nissan Australia’s new state-of-the-art National Distribution Centre."

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