Victoria unveils freight plan to tackle impediments

Several high-profile trucking issues addressed is search for efficiencies

Victoria unveils freight plan to tackle impediments
The plan document's cover


The Victorian government has launched the state’s freight plan, Delivering the Goods.

The plan establishes Freight Victoria, a dedicated, specialist freight division of Transport for Victoria.

"Industry has told us they want better coordination with government on the planning, management and delivery of Victoria’s freight and logistics network," public transport minister Jacinta Allan says

"That’s why we have established Freight Victoria as a single point of contact, a one-stop-shop for primary producers, the freight and logistics industry and local government to contact for information and assistance."

The government says the plan seeks to increase Victoria’s gross product by $40 billion by 2040 and shift more freight on to rail, developing new inland freight terminals and a new freight precinct adjacent to the Port of Melbourne.

It includes actions to deliver the $7.6 million allocated in the 2018/19 Victorian Budgetfor development of a business case for the Western Interstate Freight Terminal (WIFT), the extension of the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme, investigations into an integrated logistics hub at the Melbourne Markets and Dynon Road, and the review into heavy vehicle driver training and licensing.

"Victorian freight volumes are forecast to nearly triple by 2051 – this plan is a road map to making sure that we move freight as efficiently as possible," roads and ports minister Luke Donnellan says

"We’re backing primary producers and suppliers across our regions by having a state-wide plan that meets the needs of a growing population and economy – now and in the future."

The plan has been developed in consultation with industry and the Ministerial Freight Reference Group.

"Freight Victoria will take the lead in driving and coordinating the delivery of the Victorian Freight Plan, providing a central point of contact and consultation with the private sector," the government says.

"It will be supported by a panel of industry representatives."

The report outlines five priority areas the government plans to tackle:

  • manage existing and proposed freight corridors and places in conjunction with urban form changes
  • reduce the impact of congestion on supply chain costs and communities
  • better use of our rail freight assets
  • plan for future port capacity
  • stay ahead of the technology curve

Inland terminals

Actions as a result will entail a review and updating of the Principal Freight Network (PFN) given the pressure from non-freight developments on freight infrastructure and services.

This means moves to deliver the Western Interstate Freight Terminal (WIFT) in 5-10 years and the Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal (BIFT) in later years.

For trucking, beyond major road infrastructure projects such as the West Gate Tunnel and North East Link, continuing attention will be paid to expanding the High Productivity Freight Vehicle (HPFV) network in the PFN, "principally by strengthening and upgrading bridges and intersections on regional and metropolitan road networks.

Read about Victoria's HPFV network progress here

There will also be consideration of rail in the freight task when assessing the requirements for upgrading the HPFV network, while Identifying uses of on-board mass monitoring systems to improve heavy vehicle access to restricted infrastructure.

In the next five years, the state government hopes to streamline heavy vehicle permit applications to reduce the average number of days taken to approve permits in Victoria to less than five days.

With a steady roar of concern about the need for road pricing, it confirms it will look to conduct a national heavy vehicle charging pilot.

In response to recent industry-related scandals and other events, within and outside the state, the freight plan flags a review of the training and licensing of heavy vehicle drivers in Victoria.

And while there is an acceptance of the predominant role motorists play in fatal truck-related accidents in the pledge to "educate the driving community on sharing the road with trucks", it comes with a promise to "progressively introduce more stringent heavy vehicle safety requirements to lower the road toll".

Local government

There appears to be an acceptance that unilateral local government actions are affecting the ability of the freight transport industry to work effectively, particularly related to ‘last mile’ delivery.

In an effort to cauterise the long-running problem, the plan offers a three-point strategy:

  • support a trial to remove and monitor restrictions on after-hours freight deliveries, while, in the longer term, continuing to remove regulatory impediments or find appropriate alternatives to ensure efficient freight delivery.
  • establish a freight infrastructure fund to provide grants to local councils to upgrade priority local roads and bridges to accommodate heavier vehicles, establish or upgrade intermodal terminals or other critical freight infrastructure
  • convene an annual industry/government road freight forum to identify and resolve road freight issues and promote greater integration and coordination, while continuing to "work with local government to remove impediments to efficient freight movements and minimise amenity impacts".

Along with last mile issues as they relate to the rise of ecommerce, an area held as inevitable and already underway is IT, particularly telematics.

This comes in the battle against road congestion and to cater for road charging reforms.

The state government will look to "incentivise" take-up of telematics for all Victorian registered heavy vehicles and apply transport-related technologies and systems to the metro road network to better manage congestion and support efficient freight movement as Melbourne grows.

The port

Given the port of Melbourne’s (POM’s) centrality to the state’s freight task, special focus is to be trained on improving landside efficiency around it.

To this end, the old Melbourne Market site for use for truck and for improvements in empty container management and, along with the South Dynon precinct, will be protected for freight purposes.

Little has actually come of previous government promises to support intermodalism for container transport in the past decade but, nevertheless, this is also pledged through backing for efforts to develop on-dock rail terminals for Swanson Dock stevedores by 2022 and the inclusion of Webb Dock in the longer term.

It intends to extend the Mode Shift Incentive Scheme (MSIS) for to June 30 to minimise the cost impact of the additional road leg at Swanson Dock.

The plan sees government investigating options for its future role in "regulating pricing/charges, and access to and from the port".

Another hot-button item addressed is toll road charging, the industry having complained vociferously what it regards as state-sanctioned gouging by monopoly infrastructure controllers.

While there is no promise to lift current or future burdens, there is one to investigate how to structure future toll regime contracts to optimise efficient freight movements and minimise congestion.

A toll road pricing review for freight vehicles would come "in light of impending introduction of national heavy vehicle road pricing reform".

The vexed question of a second Melbourne port sees the Bay West project retain favouritism, with Hastings held as an option in reserve.

The full plan can be found here.


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