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More productive roads will lower costs and boost jobs

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16 August 2019

Improved heavy vehicle access will lower costs for Australian consumers and boost jobs, Chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Geoff Crouch, said today.  

The Australian Trucking Association and its member associations collectively represent the 50,000 business and 200,000 people in the Australian trucking industry. Together, we are committed to safety, professionalism and viability. 

The ATA has today released its submission to the national truck law review on heavy vehicle access, calling for governments to commit to a national reform program to deliver more productive heavy vehicle road access. 

“In 2011, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) was predicted to deliver up to $12.4 billion in economic benefits largely based on the assumption that the law would promote better access,” Mr Crouch said. 

“However, in a report commissioned by the ATA, Deloitte Access Economics found the productivity of the industry has fallen since the law was implemented.

“Earlier this week, Infrastructure Australia’s 2019 audit found the use of high productivity freight vehicles has been limited and that continued restricted use of HPFVs will lock in high freight costs for businesses and consumers. 

“Our international trade costs are already higher than New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Governments need to take bold action to deliver more productive heavy vehicle access. 

“Lower freight and trade costs ultimately mean more jobs,” he said. 

Mr Crouch said access decisions under the HVNL need fundamental reform. 

“The new law must ensure road managers deliver consistent, justified decisions that are subject to external review,” he said. 

“There needs to be process improvements and quicker timeframes that are focused on the need to enable freight deliveries in a modern, on-demand economy. 

“The current national truck laws give road managers 28 days to make a heavy vehicle access decision, although there is nothing in the law to actually enforce the 28 day limit. 

“28 days simply doesn’t cut it in enabling the needs of modern Australia. It’s an outdated, bureaucratic timeframe from a by-gone era.” 

Mr Crouch said permits needed to last longer and not be specific to individual vehicle registrations, with a new focus needed on better low volume farm gate access. 

“Permit approvals, where the route has been pre-assessed, should be instant,” he said. 

Governments need to implement further reforms to improve access for Oversize Overmass and Performance Based Standards vehicles and proactively expand as-of-right access routes. 

Trucking is an important part of the cost of everyday goods for consumers. 

“Modelling from Deloitte Access Economics shows that trucking makes up 4.4 per cent of the cost of a beer, 4.1 per cent of the cost of fruit and vegetables and 2 per cent of the cost of a new smartphone,” he said. 

“Implementing more productive heavy vehicle access on our roads can save a typical family $452 each year. 

“For local businesses, it is worth an annual $80 million for wholesale trade, $70 million for construction services and $40 million for retail trade.” 

The economic gains from better heavy vehicle access are also used by governments as a reason for Heavy Vehicle Road Reform, which aims to provide clear links between the needs of road users, the charges they pay and the services they receive. 

“The ATA is a strong advocate of the need to reform the way governments fund the road network and implement clear and measurable customer-focused service level standards for roads,” Mr Crouch said. 

“Ultimately governments won’t deliver better heavy vehicle access without addressing structural road funding issues and delivering better planned investments in the road network. 

“To achieve the economic gains from more productive heavy vehicle access, governments actually need to commit to a reform program that addresses all related issues. 

“Governments need to fix access under the HVNL, fix the structural funding issues for roads and then invest in the road network in the right places. 

“The disconnect between local land use planning, transport planning and heavy vehicle access must also be fixed. 

“As part of the planning framework, local councils should produce heavy vehicle access strategies that link land use with productive heavy vehicle access. 

“The ATA developed these recommendations in close consultation with our members, who are contributing their expertise and working together in the best interests in the industry,” he said. 

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Read the submission