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Peak modal bodies back national freight priorities report

ATA sees hot buttons pushed as ARA cheers road pricing


There was something for all of the three surface freight modes in the recently released National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities Report.

Federal infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack launched the report at the ministerial Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting in Darwin.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) cheers a promise for action on productivity, access and permit approvals, insights on each of which will have been vouchsafed by expert panel member and former ATA chair David Simon.

“The ATA welcomes the report, which shows that Michael McCormack and the Australian Government understand the importance of trucking and the need to make the road freight transport regulations more efficient,” ATA CEO Ben Maguire said. 

“The report supports the ATA’s calls for an urgent, independent and agile review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law, including road access approvals.”

Recommendations the ATA highlights are:

  • the streamlining and review of permit approvals, with the aim of reducing the approval period on key freight routes to 24 hours
  • improving road access and targeting investment to key freight routes and last mile access
  • the expansion of infrastructure investment programs to improve road access for high productivity and oversize overmass vehicles
  • reinvestment of road charges revenue to road infrastructure investments
  • better consideration of freight in urban and land use planning
  • improving infrastructure for regional supply chains, including sealing roads and providing mobile phone coverage and broadband.  

“The ATA welcomes the Government’s commitment to improving our national freight and supply chains,” Maguire says.

“This expert report will pave the way toward significant reform.”

On road charging, the report calls for  a market solution to road user charging for all heavy and light vehicles, with pricing linked to the level of road infrastructure investment required, and community service obligation payments, or a similar alternative, made available for maintenance of low volume roads which are key components of regional and rural transport networks.

Road charges revenue should be directed back to road infrastructure investments, with a particular focus on ensuring adequate maintenance.

Rail joy

For the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), items of particular welcome were different, with CEO Danny Broad pointing to policy priorities the report backs, including corridor protection, heavy vehicle pricing, short haul rail, consistency between state and federal plans, and improved land use planning.

The rail lobby is pleased that key recommendations include the sector playing a direct consultative role in the strategy’s development and a formal advisory role thereafter.

“The recommendation to adopt an Industry expert panel as part of the development of a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, including widespread industry engagement is vital to ensuring a future freight and supply chain strategy meets the needs of our industry,” Broad says.

“Furthermore, continuous input through an industry advisory group to monitor progress with implementation of a National Strategy will ensure that a national strategy is on track with broad consensus and support.

“We are also pleased to see a recommendation linking all new infrastructure funding to achieving freight outcomes in planning and decision making at all levels of government.

“Now that we have a report that highlights what our National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities should look like, we need to continue momentum by focusing on how the recommendations can be implemented through a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

“We need strong leadership at the Commonwealth level to drive these recommendations and reforms forward, working closely with state and territory governments to follow-through with recommendations; supported by a clear and transparent workplan to assist industry in monitoring and tracking progress to ensure governments are kept to account and key recommendations in this report are adopted and implemented effectively.”

Minister’s view

McCormack says the report “paves the way for the development of a strategy which improves the competitiveness of Australian businesses and delivers for consumers by making it faster, easier, and less expensive to move goods.

“We know the national freight task will almost double over the next 20 years, which presents a challenge and opportunity to work with industry to maximise the benefit from the sector which already contributes around 10 per cent of our productivity.

“I thank the Panel for its report, which provides a platform for Government to look at opportunities to drive efficient and sustainable freight logistics while balancing the freight needs of a growing economy and ensuring the sector and the community share the benefits too.”

Other expert panel members were NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas, Qube MD Maurice James and Western Australia Freight and Logistics Council chair Nicole Lockwood.

Call to action

Drawing on 127 submissions and one‑on‑one meetings with over 200 individuals, from 28 peak bodies and over 90 businesses, the report identifies six ‘critical action areas’:

enhance efficiency through a nationwide, consistent and integrated approach to freight and supply chain issues to.  Other than where completely vertically integrated supply chains exist, freight modes and operators to work together for the whole network to be efficient. 

measuring of supply chain activity and performance to monitor domestic and global competitiveness over time and identify areas where action is required to maintain and improve productivity.  A national approach to data consistency across jurisdictions “is essential”.

integrating freight supply chains to be into land, sea and air use planning systems in states and territories but with liveable city concepts included to gain a stronger social licence to implement development in a freight‑friendly way

freight precincts to have adequate capacity to handle expected future volumes, with sufficient capacity in the associated land, maritime and air connections, and be protected from encroachment

governments and industry collaboration to communicate the importance of freight to bolster the social licence for freight, with training and education courses teaching matters relevant to freight related supply chains “to ensure that future decision makers understand the implications of their decisions in their future careers”.

Data push

The report looks to focus government minds on the importance of data collection and analysis to gain more transparency and better inform spending decisions.

This could be done through funding for a “freight observatory to collect, analyse and publish freight performance data for all freight modes and supply chains”.

This would need “appropriate governance arrangements and the potential for this function to be held by an independent body that has industry confidence”.

It advocates establishing a data gathering and performance review mechanism focused on travel times and reliability on key freight routes and the efficiency of the interfaces at freight terminals with routine public reporting of performance over time.

The panel wants funding for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to establish a transport satellite account to its national accounts that separately reports the value of freight transport for the economy as a whole

The full report can be found here.


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