The Australian, state and territory governments must get serious about real reforms to deliver better access for trucks, said Chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) David Smith.
Smith was releasing the ATA submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review consultation regulation impact statement on access.
“For too long governments and their agencies have said the right things on truck access, without delivering the bold, proactive leadership needed to get real outcomes on the ground,” Smith said.
“In 2011, industry was told the HVNL would deliver up to $12.4 billion in economic benefits, mostly as a result of better access.
“Instead, transport industry productivity has fallen. While there have been some important gains for specific routes and specific operators, they’ve been hard fought and the evidence is clear that they are not delivering industry-wide productivity gains,” he said.
Smith said that ATA members were disappointed at the lack of ambition of the proposed HVNL review options.
“Better access for high productivity trucks means we can move the freight task with fewer vehicle movements, with clear economic gains that cascade through the economy,” Smith said.
“Instead, not only do the consultation options lack ambition but there are a number of proposals which would cost industry more and come with a real risk of reduced access.
“It’s completely unacceptable that in a review that is meant to look at reducing red tape and boosting productivity, there are uncosted proposals to require on-board mass systems without any assessment of the increased cost and red tape on industry.
“Outrageously, the review also includes an option that would allow road managers to deny access if they think freight should be moved by another transport mode.
Smith said that this ill-considered idea breaches the Productivity Commission’s finding that choice of mode is a commercial decision, and that government regulation should be mode neutral.
“Local governments do many things well, but they are not resourced or qualified to decide if loads of freight should go by road or rail. This proposal would make access decisions more complex and undermine productivity,” he said.
The ATA has backed some of the reform proposals, including changes to general access, options to improve permits, changes to the statutory timeframe, enabling external reviews of access decisions, developing standards for more consistent decisions, and reforms to improve the harmonisation of pilots and escorts.
“The ATA said when the HVNL was first proposed that access decisions should be subject to external review, and we strongly urge governments to finally make this change,” Smith said.
“We’ve also been a strong advocate for establishing enforceable standards on access decisions, to improve the consistency of decisions.”
Smith said governments should immediately prioritise additional integrated, bold reforms on the issue.
“The ATA has made a series of recommendations to improve access decision making which governments need to go back and read again,” he said.
“Critical steps such as a large-scale shift to pre-approved, gazetted routes have been missed.
“To fix the fundamental issues on access, governments must also deliver meaningful reforms to how roads are funded, deliver a national high productivity freight vehicle network and actually fix the broken link between land use and transport planning with providing heavy vehicle access.”