Rachel Smith, Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association Executive Director reckons the relationship between rural trucking and government is a bit like buzz word bingo.
However, writes Rachel, the key focus area of the transport industry is how do we move more freight, in a more safe, productive and efficient manner.
Many Australians would not be aware, road transport is one of the most regulated industries in Australia, whether it be Heavy Vehicle National Law, WH&S, animal welfare, biosecurity, registration, and licensing, it is not easy to be an operator or driver.
Like many transport industry associations ALRTA has been focussed on inputting productive and pragmatic advice to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) reform review process. It has been a lengthy process to get to this point, following the August 2021 Infrastructure Transport Ministers’ Meeting (ITMM) decision to take on the recommendations from the Kanofsky review.
ALRTA has been focussed on providing input to ensure the amount of regulation and enforcement is proportional to the safety outcomes. This includes recommending 4.6m high trailers, with appropriate safety features fitted, and taking a risk-based approach to enforcement, particularly around low-level fatigue infringements and administrative errors in EWDs.
Education should be a precursor to penalty and those that have issues managing low level fatigue should be encouraged to apply for the BFM or AFM programs. Simply penalising significant sums of money for low level offences does little to address the problem, except to add stress to the operator.
The HVNL reforms form just one part of the safety picture, it was encouraging to see the Federal Government announced the ‘Roads to Recovery’ funding will increase from $500M to $1B annually. Minister King stated:
“Regional road networks have been battered by severe weather events over the last few years. This funding will help councils to fix and maintain our roads. This investment will support regional communities, and help move freight to and from our rural production centres.”
This funding announcement came off the back of a Grattan Institute Report, ‘Potholes and Pitfalls: How to fix local roads’ which concluded Australia’s roads were underfunded by $1B per year.
Fixing local roads is paramount to driver safety and wellbeing. Well maintained roads help freight moves faster and more efficiently and reduce the risk of accidents and has positive impacts on fatigue management.
ALRTA along with other peaks has been advocating for the heightening visibility of passive level crossings. This is an important advocacy issue for regional and rural operators as passive level crossings pose an unacceptable risk to heavy and light vehicle drivers, with high numbers of locomotive and vehicle collisions because of poor signalling and lighting.
Building on this, it is also important drivers have access to clean, tidy and well maintained and located driver rest areas. ALRTA has been working with the Heavy Vehicle Rest Area Committee, led by Senator Glenn Sterle, via our representatives to assist in ensuring driver welfare is maintained by the building of strategical placed driver facilities. These will be delivered over the next 10 years in partnership with state authorities. It is important for industry to continue advocate for suitable locations to relevant state transport bodies.
If the industry is to remain viable, we need to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our workforce is maintained through timely investment in road maintenance and upgrades, reducing the need for onerous and duplicative regulation, ensuring enforcement and penalties is proportional to alleged offence and provision of safe and clean driver facilities.
Transport is often overlooked as a profession, but driving takes skill, experience and is essential to the Australian economy. Households would be at a loss without the contribution our drivers and industry make.