It is about time that the trucking industry in Australia started thinking about infrastructure not as an impediment to the operation, but rather to look at infrastructure as a tool. At the same time, the trucking industry needs to convince the road managers to think about infrastructure in a completely different way, as well
Roads are not the problem it’s the way we think about roads, which is the issue. If you think like the traditional road managers do, in many states in Australia, then what you do is you are building a road to live forever and you want to minimise the amount of maintenance you have to do on that road.
So what do you do? You ensure that road has the least possible amount of damage done to it. Every year you minimise the risk of having to spend money on repairing that asset. It’s an asset, it sits there on your ledger and the job of many road managers seems to be to ensure that no more money needs to be spent on a particular road.
This is very much old thinking. The road isn’t an asset to be preserved for eternity, it is actually a useful tool for business. And what do you do with tools? You use them. How do you use them? You use them to the maximum of their capacity.
You also have to think practically about how that asset is used. So, we actually need to think of road assets as a cost. They are a cost to the economy of doing business and therefore, we should charge accordingly.
However, charging for the use of our roads is problematic. We have been told for the last 30 years a fiction that the money we pay in registration for our trucks is directly correlated with the amount of damage that our trucks cause on the infrastructure of Australia.
The blatant overcharging, which has featured in those years, tells us that this is simply not true. If the government are going to introduce a road user charge, and they will have no choice, as the use of diesel and petrol disappears, there will be the same amount of traffic and heavy trucks continuing to travel on those roads.
There will have to be a new way of funding the roads, anyway, but we don’t just need a new way of funding the roads, we need a new way of thinking about the roads.
Instead of running B doubles on this highway and then having to spend X million dollars every 10 years to keep it up to scratch. Why not let A-doubles or even triples on this highway, who, by the way, will be willing to pay considerably more for the use of that road. The productivity is going to be so much higher, so in return, charge them a little more for using the road and then repair it not every 10 years but spent that X million every six or seven years.
What you’re doing then is you are genuinely sweating the asset, you are increasing the productivity of the entire Australian economy. We need to change our thinking about infrastructure, now, in order to get the best value out of what we currently have.
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