Highways are the arteries of small towns and trucks are their lifeblood, writes Warren Clark, NatRoad CEO, and play a big part in reviving rural economies this is part of trucking’s role in rural development.
Picture this: You’re cruising down a peaceful country road, surrounded by farms, small towns, and wide-open spaces. While these places may seem tranquil, they face their own challenges. One is the lack of a critical mass of people to sustain a diversity of businesses. The other is a lack of connection.
The spate of extreme floods and fires over the last two years underlined the importance of the latter. It’s not simple for farmers to get their fresh produce to the factories or retail stores. While rail has the advantage of enabling the efficient movement of bulk goods from Point A to Point B, road reaches places it can’t.
This is where trucking’s role is vital in keeping those small-town economies ticking along. Without a way to get their fruits or veggies to market, a remote business can’t sustain itself, let alone grow. And it’s not just farmers. Factories in these small towns rely on us to send their products out into the world.
That means more people get jobs, and regional areas all over Australia get a boost. Access to markets drives demand for their products, which, in turn, drives the need for more transportation services.
The broader community sees these benefits and recent NatRoad research shows that four-in-ten Australians are ‘much more likely’ or ‘more likely’ to support a politician who supports road freight.
This support is even higher in regional Australia which shows that people in the bush understands the importance and benefits of trucking more than most.
Trucking is not just about moving goods. It’s also about growing small businesses that provide critical support services such as truck maintenance, logistics management, and fuel supply. These businesses become the backbone of rural communities, providing employment opportunities, and contributing to the local economy.
So why are our governments slow to do enough to lift the standard of roads in regional areas?
The answer is, of course, money. The 2022 floods in New South Wales alone are estimated to have cost the insurance industry $12 billion in claims. Local governments, already strapped for cash to maintain basic services, faced enormous road repair bills and the backlog of work is likely to take years to clear.
State Governments are heavily reliant on GST to raise funds, and our nation’s economic policy right now is about putting the brakes on spending so inflation can be brought back under control.
Our industry faces its own challenges in ever rising costs, strangulation by red tape, a chronic driver and diesel mechanic shortage and the looming need to decarbonise.
These challenges underscore the importance of continued investment in rural road networks and transportation infrastructure to support both our industry and the communities it serves. Our governments must recognise the central role of the trucking industry in rural development and prioritise its growth.
That means improving roads to enhance rural economies, fixing national truck laws and addressing the skills shortage to allow trucking to grow, and incentivising the adoption of emissions reduction in road transport to reduce overall costs.
In a nutshell, the trucking industry is not just about transporting goods; it’s about transporting hope and opportunity to rural areas. By recognising the critical role trucks play in regional development, we can ensure that the regions continue to thrive and prove that the road to prosperity truly runs through the heart of our nation.