It’s not just the trucking industry in Australia which is telling the government that we need to fix our rural roads, there is now a report has been released this week by the Grattan Institute saying exactly what the trucking industry of Australia has been saying for many years, that the rural roads in Australia are not up to the job.
We, as an industry, know these roads hold back freight productivity and limit efficiency improvements, which would be possible with proper road funding. This is holding back the general economy by making freight transport difficult due to the poor condition of our roads
The report tells us that 75 per cent of Australia’s roads are managed by local councils. This report also points out how low the funding has been historically, and how these local councils do not have the resources even to work out just how bad their roads are.
The report estimates $1 billion is needed next year just to keep the roads the rural roads of Australia in the same state as they are they are today. Now we know that there definitely won’t be anything like $1 billion being spent on rural roads next year. Therefore, at the end of 2024 the rural roads which we know are bad today are going to be worse.
As the report by the Grattan Institute points out, taxpayers would get a better bang for their buck if the federal government spent an extra $1 billion on improving our local roads rather than on new mega projects in the major cities.
This brings us back to the perennial problem for the trucking industry in that, from the politician’s point of view, the trucking industry doesn’t vote, the freight industry doesn’t vote, and, clearly, rural road managers don’t vote either.
However, people in the major cities who may have their lives affected by one of these major projects clearly do vote. The fact of the matter is that there are very few electorates in rural areas, which are marginal, but they quite often are in the major cities.
As a result, this is where the incumbent government would like to spend money in order to shore up their support in the marginal seats. And the result of all this is that our roads are deteriorating rapidly, causing issues for operators running on rural roads.
Productivity then becomes further compromised. driving up costs with no no chance of an improvement in productivity. Better roads would also create the ability to run larger, more productive vehicles. However, the roads are getting worse and the productive vehicles we can use at the moment will probably have to run slower and may have to take different routes in order to avoid the worst of the roads.
At the end of the day, the report recommends an extra $600 million to be spent in financial assistance grants and a $400 million annual increase to the Road to Recovery Fund.
Yet again, here we see the funds following the needs of the political masters to retain power and taking away decision making away from what the actual economy needs to maintain economic growth. We ignore what the country needs in order to improve productivity and give the trucking industry an opportunity to really help drive economic growth around Australia.
The other aspect of the report which is worrying is the fact that this isn’t a stable situation. The deterioration in our roads is set to increase without a funding increase. As the roads decay the rate of decay increases, as traffic uses the bad roads, they become worse a lot quicker. Whereas if funding to repair those roads and improve them increases, that slows the rate of deterioration in the in the roads.