LRTAWA says WA access changes to hit harvest efficiency

By: Rob McKay


Mandating ‘agricultural pilot’ on non-accredited roads seen as retrograde

LRTAWA says WA access changes to hit harvest efficiency
LRTAWA president Stephen Marley

 

 

Western Australia’s rural transporters’ lobby has accused Main Roads Western Australia (MRWA) of undermining grain harvest efficiency with mass management changes.

The Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA), which represents professional grain transporters, claims a new ‘agricultural pilot’ requirement for loads from the farm to the nearest restricted access network road, is a solution to a problem that does not exist on the ground.

"Since the 2016/17 harvest, transporters have been operating successfully under innovative and progressive arrangements that enable restricted access vehicles to travel on non-accredited roads subject to a number of conditions," LRTAWA president Stephen Marley says.

Conditions include driving at 40 km/h and displaying a flashing light.

LRTAWA says the move appears to have been made in response to legal advice.

Relevant roads must also be listed on an approved road list and given to the grain receiver and carried in the vehicle.

The association insists that over two harvests about 30 million tonnes of grain have been moved safely and that the requirement to use an agricultural pilot, who requires no special training, will not be safer than a professional transporter travelling at 40km/h with a flashing light.

"The previous ‘forty and flashing’ requirement is a safe way to efficiently move grain from the paddock to a network road as the loads are visible and travelling slowly," Marley says.

The association also has practical compliance concerns.

"Harvest is a busy time of the year for farmers and transporters, and access to extra resources, such as pilots will be difficult, if not impossible," Marley says.

"Our industry is very disappointed with this decision.

"Not only is the safety improvement questionable, it will reduce productivity, increase truck movements on these roads and costs to the grower.

"The Main Roads department suggests this arrangement was implemented to deal with a backlog of route assessments and the expectation of a large harvest in 2016/17.

"Early estimates are that 8.4 million hectares will be cropped this year, higher than previous years, so assuming an average yield, the 2018/19 harvest is unlikely to be smaller than last year or the year before."

Red-tape worry

LRTAWA has concerns that the efficiency imperative is failing to be recognised in the department.

"We have members who have been waiting a long time for route assessments to be completed, so the claim there is no longer a backlog is not matched by reality," Marley says.

"It is a waste of resources to assess the hundreds of roads that carry a few loads a year at harvest when there are other more critical roads that need assessing."

The hope at the industry body is that the upcoming state review of rural logistics announced by transport and planning minister Rita Saffioti and agriculture minister Alannah MacTiernan in March, will address such issues.

"These are the sorts of access issues we want to overcome in the Revitalising Agricultural Region Freight Strategy," Marley says.

"There are many examples in the regional road network where decision makers need to understand the productivity and safety benefits of using innovative and productive combinations and the importance of connecting the network.

"Western Australia was envied by other states over this arrangement as it was based on common sense.

"Unfortunately, we are losing our reputation for innovation at a time when the need for efficiency is more important than ever.

"With WA’s economy continuing to struggle, the Government should ensure regulators don’t stand in the way of industries that contribute to growth."

ATN is awaiting a response from Saffioti’s office to the association’s concerns.

Machinery

The use of agricultural pilots was subject to Main Roads adjustment last November in relation to the transport of agricultural machinery.

"The vast majority of the agricultural sector is aware there has never been a blanket exemption from the requirement for heavy vehicle pilots when moving agricultural machinery," the department said at the time in response to "some misleading information circulating recently regarding alleged impacts on the agricultural industry resulting from the introduction of the Heavy Vehicle Pilot Licence". 

"There are, however, concessions whereby some machinery can be moved by a pilot (as opposed to an accredited pilot or heavy vehicle licensed pilot). 

"In November 2016, legislation was introduced requiring all pilots to be licensed.  This change was introduced following consultation with the WA transport and Pilot industries to assist in improving safety standards and the professional status of heavy vehicle pilots.  A 12 month transition period was deployed to enable accredited pilots to become licensed with the transition period ending on 28 November 2017. 

"In order to ensure continuity of the practical approach adopted for movement of some agricultural machinery a Notice has been prepared and will be gazetted on 28 November.  This Notice will authorise licensed drivers who are not licensed heavy vehicle pilots to drive pilot vehicles for the purpose of escorting some agricultural machinery.

"There has therefore been no change in the requirements for safe movement of agricultural machinery."

 

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