The Queensland Trucking Association is calling for the next federal government to implement four road freight ‘pillars’ it believes are essential to industry growth.
In a detailed election blueprint released earlier this month, the QTA highlights infrastructure investment, industry led-skills training, workplace relations reform and business and payroll tax reforms, as the areas that need immediate focus.
“These recommendations will propel the road freight industry towards a low carbon future that is efficient, productive, and commercially competitive,” said QTA CEO Gary Mahon. “This is crucial to the prosperity and economic growth of both Queensland and Australia.
Below is an edited extract from the blueprint. For more details visit qta.com.au.
Pillar 1 – Infrastructure investment Inland Freight Route (IFR)
There is an urgent need to establish a viable alternative to the Bruce Highway, which is known to be vulnerable to a raft of road safety, flooding, capacity and congestion issues.
The IFR is an existing road network, comprising a series of highways and developmental roads that connect north-south to provide a viable alternative to the Bruce Highway.
The location of these inland routes are closer to major economic supply chains for agricultural and horticultural production, and additionally the resources sector.
Identified Highways that would form the IFR include:
• Castlereagh Highway
• Carnarvon Highway
• Dawson Highway
• Gregory Highway
• Gregory Developmental Road
• Flinders Highway
The advantages of the IFR to facilitate projected growth in agriculture, resources and associated supply chains include:
• An inland route for high productivity vehicles (HPV: defined as any multi-combination vehicle used for the purpose of moving freight) reducing road safety and congestion exposure on the Bruce Highway.
• Current inland HPV routes could form an IFR that offers time improvements of more than 10 per cent compared to Bruce Highway from Far North Queensland to Sydney and Melbourne.
• Inland HPV routes can be made more resilient to natural disasters, providing viable all-weather route options.
The QTA has assessed key links and the following 11 bridge priorities that warrant replacement/upgrades in the next five years.
Rifle Creek Bridge (north of Mareeba)
• Single lane and load limited.
• Last QTMR study was undertaken out of cane season and the road to the Cape was closed.
Spear Creek Bridge (north of Mareeba)
• Two lanes, but not wide enough for two trucks to pass safely.
• Load limited.
McLeod River Bridge (north of Mareeba)
• Two lanes but not wide enough for two trucks to pass safely.
• Load limited.
• Prone to flooding – cuts off access to Cooktown/Cape.
• No three-trailer access.
Bungi Creek Bridge Roma (W.M. Ewan Bridge)
• Limited for high productivity combinations.
Gilbert River Bridge (between Georgetown and Croydon – Gulf Development Road)
• Single lane.
• Weight restricted, unable to run Higher Mass Limits (HML).
Norman River Bridge (between Croydon and Normanton)
• Narrow and weight limited (unable to run HML).
Georgetown Bridge – Etheridge River Bridge
• Narrow and weight limited (unable to run HML).
Splinter Creek crossings (on the Monto-Mt Perry Road and Monto-Kalpowar Road)
• Trucks are now required to travel to Biloela and across to Gladstone instead of direct access to the coast.
• This bridge is a timber structure bridge and has been weight limited to exclude trucks.
Bremer River Bridge
The A-Double combination at 30 metres in length is the optimal combination carrying two 40-foot containers (four TEUs on one vehicle combination). These innovative, safe and efficient vehicle combinations cannot currently be fully utilised on this corridor forcing additional truck movements.
The Bremer River Bridge restrictions on the Warrego Highway are a significant constraint on this corridor and will continue to add to costs and impede freight efficiency holding this potentially productive corridor in the State to ransom for as long as it takes to replace it.
The next Australian Government must acknowledge the vital role this key corridor performs in transporting road freight between and around the southern region as part of the National Land Transport Network and the National Land Freight Network.
Accordingly, commit to a further upgrade of assets across the corridor to unlock capacity and allow increased access for the use of HPV combinations. The investment to replace the Bremer River Bridge must be brought forward to unlock this network to meet its productive potential.
Bee Creek Peak Downs Highway
• Weight limited
• Main passageway into Mackay/Bowen Basin and there is no alternative around this bridge. Critical large machinery for mine deliveries that cannot be reduced to smaller articles.
Grosvenor Creek and Cherwell Creek (bridge and culvert)
• Council advise the bridge is out of warranty, therefore every time heavy loads over the 200t gross want to use it, a new bridge assessment is applied at the client’s/industry’s cost with concomitant delays and inefficiencies.
Pillar 2 – Industry-led skills training
Jobs ready program
The QTA urges the next Australian government to invest in our Jobs Ready Program. It is a viable job ready employment program that will ensure that the road freight industry has the capability to meet the future growth and demand of road freight movement in Queensland.
There is an urgent need for appropriately trained job ready competent and skilled drivers to fill vacancies around Australia. With new heavy vehicles ranging in cost from $100,000 to $1,000,000, there is a responsibility to ensure that drivers behind the wheel of the expensive combinations are adequately trained to ensure that they can manage and control a vehicle in the correct and safe manner and without incident.
QTA proposes a pilot funded by the next Australian Government estimated at $1,500,000 to initially train 150 heavy vehicle drivers with a forward plan to allocate an additional $5 million to extend the training for 600 positions.
At average cost of $10,000/driver including all project management, training, mentored driving hours program and onboarding, this is a modest investment to achieve a guaranteed employment solution for an industry in dire need for drivers.
Pillar 3 – Workplace relations reform
The Australian employment relations system is confusing, and interpretation of the Modern Awards too often requires the assistance of specialist industrial relations lawyers or other industrial advocates.
Where an inconsistency is not dealt with within an Award, there are limited paths that an employer, or an employee, can take to ensure the right entitlement is being provided.
The primary means is through contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) either by phone or through an online enquiry. Responses will be made by officers often lack experience with the specific the Modern Award/s requiring interpretation and advice. In most cases, any advice provided will not be in writing or, where written advice is sought, may take days or weeks to arrive without any guarantee as to its accuracy.
To address these issues sufficiently, the federal government should legislate that the Fair Work Ombudsman provide written advice for all matters requiring interpretation of an award or the Fair Work Act (2009) in a timely manner. In all other case written advice should be prioritised over verbal advice.
Pillar 4 – Business and payroll tax reforms
To achieve any meaningful reform requires the Commonwealth to play an active role, ensuring states and territories are assisted, not penalized, for undertaking productivity enhancing reforms on payroll tax.
While payroll tax is a state and territory tax, achieving reform requires inter-governmental cooperation. The Commonwealth must play an active leadership role to assist the states and territories make significant changes.
As a first step, the Commonwealth should show leadership by working with the states and territories to include payroll tax reform on the national agenda by mid-2022.
Initially, the Council of Federal Financial Relations should focus on reducing the administrative and compliance burden of payroll taxes on business. The longer-term goal should be to abolish payroll tax.
The next Australian government should lead reform of stamp duties to incentivise the purchase of new heavy vehicles and accelerate the commercial viability of low and zero emission heavy vehicles.
Stamp duties are economically inefficient. They restrict the efficient allocation of capital and labour.
The next Australian Government should be strongly focussed on reducing our nation’s reliance on stamp duty as a matter of priority.
Heavy vehicle taxes, including stamp duties, are taxes on capital and increase the cost of investing in high productivity freight vehicles and the new zero emissions vehicles. This in turn leads to a reduction in investment in vehicles, and a high excess burden.