Melbourne port-suburbs trucks plan 'missed marks'

Looming tunnel, truck discrimination and lack of effective incentives seen ending it

Melbourne port-suburbs trucks plan 'missed marks'
A large combination on Somerville Road. Pic: MTAG


Melbourne’s Smart Freight Partnership – Inner West (SFPIW) likely failed due to timing and the lack of the sort of incentives that would attract affected trucking companies, especially small ones, according to industry experts.

The SFPIW, announced in mid-2019, was agreed on after an 18-month negotiation involving the Victorian government, VicRoads, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) and the Maribyrnong City Council.

One expert reflects that other emissions-related discrimination between types of truck that are otherwise run legally have failed in the past.

It is also pointed out that the plan gave little incentive or financial support to help small operators and owner-drivers to modernise and that this sort of carrot had been the feature of similar initiatives around ports in other countries, particularly Los Angeles in the US.

The plan’s rejection was greeted with deep disappointment and suspicion by suburban resident action groups in the city struggling with their own heavy vehicle traffic.

Resolve Rosanna Road (RRR), which accuses VicRoads and police of failing to enforce existing truck bans in the city’s northeast and says VicRoads’ improvement work on Rosanna Road fails to create lanes wide enough for the truck using it, joins MTAG in saying the move was a lost opportunity.

"It's a sad day for us when the oldest most polluting trucks continue to have a free reign running down our residential streets. If we lived in Europe or the USA these trucks would be banned," RRR says.

"It's also a lost opportunity for Victoria's freight industry to be incentivised to upgrade to Euro 5 trucks that emit 95% less pollution than a pre-1996 truck."

Read how the Smart Freight Partnership story broke, here

Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), however, welcomes plan being shelved, providing reasons that a state government reticent about explaining how the decision came about may have found compelling.

"The majority of CTAA alliance companies engaged in container transport logistics into the Port of Melbourne felt that many of the initiatives put forward by certain interests in the original Smart Freight Partnership proposal were ill-conceived, would have been bureaucratic to implement, and would not have achieved their intended aims." CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

"We are less than three years’ away from the opening of the West Gate Tunnel, and our focus should be, and is, on working with the Victorian government and the Department of Transport to address how trucks will access vital freight precincts in Melbourne’s western suburbs and the Port of Melbourne in an efficient and productive manner.

"The Environmental Freight Zone [EFZ] initially proposed, further restricting trucks not meeting stricter engine emission standards from access to certain inner west roads, would not have provided sufficient incentive for transport operators to upgrade their prime mover fleets to Euro 5 standards or above.

"Instead, transport operators and owner-drivers utilising perfectly legal trucks under existing Australian safety and environmental emission standards, would have been disadvantaged. The result would have been increased transport costs, not significant investment in newer trucks."

"Also, the EFZ would have been too bureaucratic to administer and to enforce.

"The Andrew Government has been clear for many years that once the West Gate Tunnel is opened, day and night truck curfews will be applied to all of the inner western suburb roads that run east-west, including Francis Street, Somerville Road and Buckley Street, along with Moore Street in Footscray, and current exemptions will be removed.

"This will have the effect of funnelling heavy vehicles onto the M1 to use the West Gate Tunnel to access the Swanson precinct in the Port of Melbourne, and paying considerable road tolls to do so.

"As a result, CTAA has been consistent in advocating that the proposed added truck curfews require the north-south routes, such as Williamstown Road and Millers Road, to be upgraded to provide efficient and productive links for heavy vehicles accessing the M1 travelling to/from the Port by day and by night.

"And, these routes must accommodate higher productivity freight vehicles [HPFVs] up to their design gross vehicle masses to ensure that the freight efficiencies possible on the upgraded West Gate Freeway and the new Tunnel are matched by these important freight arterial roads."

CTAA also welcomes the state government’s commitment to reduce speed limits on key routes, to resurface vital roads like Williamstown Road to reduce noise levels, and other safety initiatives.

"Now it is time for a less ‘closed’ discussion on freight access in the inner west to prepare for the road access landscape that will exist post the opening of the West Gate Tunnel," Chambers says.


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