The Australian Trucking Association has called for greater investment in the nation’s roads and changes to the Closing the Loopholes Bill as a part of its pre-Budget submissions.
It wants to see a $5 billion investment over the next 10 years by the federal government to improve freight roads, dangerous level crossings and to build more rest areas for truck drivers.
Chair David Smith says the government should also re-establish temporary full expensing for trucks and trailers and fund the states to reform stamp duty to encourage businesses to buy new, safer vehicles.
“Trucking is vital to the fabric of the Australian community, but the government needs to make our freight roads better,” he says.
“To keep truck drivers safe, the government needs to fix dangerous level crossings. And we need a concerted effort to fix rest areas, because the task is huge, and drivers aren’t seeing enough in the way of results.
“Australia must also invest in developing a defined all-weather network, with a supporting secondary network pre-approved for use, in the wake of road network closures due to fires, floods and crashes.
“To achieve this, the federal government should assume responsibility for major freight roads through the national highways program. This should include funding and operational responsibilities, including granting access approvals for heavy vehicles.
“The 2024-25 budget should include a new, $5 billion truck roads, level crossings and rest areas program over the next ten years. All the projects under the program should be linked to results, such as improving safety and enabling the industry to increase its use of high productivity trucks.
“Increasing the use of high productivity trucks would reduce total vehicle movements, reduce congestion growth and lower the cost of freight. High productivity trucks are more likely to be safer, quieter and less emissions intensive.”
David says road upgrades in New South Wales need to be looked at urgently.
“The government’s immediate priority should be to fund the road upgrades needed to allow 35 metre modular A-doubles on the Hume Highway in New South Wales.
“These trucks with two trailers can carry 44 pallets of freight, compared to 36 pallets in the 26 metre long B-doubles that are commonly used now.”
The ATA also says that a number of changes need to made to the Closing the Loopholes Bill in order to accurately reflect the needs for the road transport industry.
It says it should enable the Fair Work Commission to make orders in relation to the whole contract chain, not just owner drivers. At present, the bill would enable the government to make regulations about this.
One of the big pushes for the bill has been to ensure that contract workers will have minimum standards in their contracts.
ATA CEO Mathew Munro wants to see the composition of the advisory committee for the bill to change, including more key transport workers.
“Road transport industry contractual chain orders will be as important as road transport minimum standards orders,” he says.
“Accordingly, the Act should set out the commission’s powers, rather than leaving them to regulation later. The report argues for a new failsafe mechanism to enable the minister, or the commission on application, to defer or suspend an order while the commission reviews it.
“The case for the failsafe mechanism is that this would be a new role for the commission that would involve issuing orders about business-to-business transactions.
“Again, it’s important that the failsafe mechanism is in the Act rather than leaving it to regulation.
“Owner drivers or their representative should hold a majority of positions on any advisory committee looking at orders relating to owner drivers.”