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Federal Election: Hit the reset button on safety and productivity

The next government must reset Australia’s approach to road safety and productivity, said David Smith, chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

In a statement to launch the ATA’s 2022 federal election policy charter, Smith said the number of crashes involving trucks is falling, thanks to the work of the industry and governments.

“But it won’t be acceptable until there are zero deaths and zero injuries on our roads,” Smith added.

“The ATA is calling for a dramatic improvement in road safety, with an aspirational target: a 25 per cent reduction per year in crashes involving trucks, once the measures we propose get started.”

The ATA’s policy charter also calls for a dramatic improvement in the industry’s productivity and the elimination of red tape.

“At present, trucking businesses need to lodge 44,000 applications per year to use roads that were built to be used. It’s wasteful, costly and time consuming,” said Smith.

“The Tasmanian road access system shows it is possible to reduce this pointless paperwork by 95 per cent.”

Smith said a policy reset by the Australian government would get the same results nationally.

“In conjunction with ambitious access rules for the National Land Freight Network, the trucking industry could deliver our share of Australia’s freight in fewer trips. This would keep the cost of living down for everyone and reduce costs for our exporters,” he said.

Smith slammed the government’s decision to halve fuel tax for light vehicle owners for the next six months.

The effective tax reduction for trucking businesses is 4.3 cents per litre, not 22.1 cents per litre.

He reiterated the fact this would cause cash flow problems for many small trucking businesses.

“As our charter points out, the current model for setting truck registration charges and the road user charge on fuel is broken. We need a different approach.”

Below is an edited summary of the ATA’s proposals under two of its three key pillars – People, Viability and Future. For the full charter visit truck.net.au. 


Boosting Safety

The challenges:

The ATA’s target is zero deaths and zero injuries. Our roads do not meet national standards; many older trucks are still on the road. 

  Crash investigations are poor. In 2011, 205 Australians were killed in crashes involving trucks. 

In 2020, the number had fallen to 170. 

The improvement rate over the 10 years to December 2020 was only 2.5 per cent per year. 

Australia’s cities are congested, with freight bottlenecks and poor planning.  Interstate and regional roads are poorly maintained. 

Truck rest areas are scarce and rarely meet national guidelines, and the industry’s productivity is falling. 

Only $17 out of every $100 spent on roads supports freight. 

Each year billions of dollars are spent on freight infrastructure. 

The industry pays for this through road charges. But the selection, delivery and funding options are invisible to the industry as customers. 

ATA response:

• Set a more ambitious road safety target: a 25 per cent reduction of crashes involving trucks per year. 

• The Australian Government fund and operating all major freight roads. 

• National road service level standards to guide road spending, rest area improvements and safety, including by enabling the use of modern truck combinations that are safer and reduce the number of trucks on the road. 

• An additional 10-year, $5 billion truck roads and rest area program to bring the road network into line with the national standards. 

• The Australian Transport Safety Bureau conduct no-blame safety investigations of truck crashes where there are lessons to be learned. 

• A maximum of 100 km/h speed limit everywhere in Australia.

• Mandatory medicals for all heavy vehicle drivers against fit for purpose medical standards. 

• A freight infrastructure delivery champion attached to Infrastructure Australia. 

• Freight project selection and delivery agreed between government and industry annually. 

• Transport infrastructure plans which include truck rest areas, access and future investment priorities to fix network gaps. 

• Adoption of national road service level standards to guide road spending, including metrics on rest areas, heavy vehicle access, road safety and quality. 

• A national map of freight infrastructure gaps. 

• The Euro VI emission standard or the equivalent US/Japanese standards for new trucks. 

• A purchase incentive for zero emission trucks. 

The ATA is calling for a zero-emission truck sales goal of 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040.



The challenges:

Productivity is falling. The 44,000 applications each year to use the roads for which they are intended is wasteful, costly and time consuming. In 95 per cent of cases it is completely unnecessary. The ‘permit’ system is a dinosaur, and the artificial limits on highly productive freight vehicles causes congestion and increases costs.

There is complete inconsistency between states. 

In contrast, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are widely recognised for better access. 

Those governments partner with and recognise the essential character of trucking. 

ATA response:

• Access should be as of right, with high productivity freight vehicles enabling Australia’s freight task to be moved in fewer trips, reducing costs, emissions and fuel use. 

• Define vehicle access on the Australian Government funded network to include combinations up to 53.5 metres, such as A doubles and type 2 road trains. 

• Off the national network, manage access through an automated notice system based on the successful Tasmanian model. Operators would be able to check their access 24/7. The system would match each vehicle’s configuration to the network assets on the vehicle’s possible routes. Operators would generally be able to use an available route without needing a permit. 

• Reduce the number of access permits that need to be lodged by 95 per cent by 1 July 2025. 

• Migrate PBS 26 pallet semitrailers and PBS truck and dogs to the prescriptive fleet, so these safe, productive configurations can be used by any operator. 


The challenges:

The current model for setting truck registration charges and the road user charge on fuel is broken. 

Government road funding decisions are determined by the needs of car drivers. But trucking businesses are expected to pay an outsize share of the cost 

There is no link between road funding and increasing the industry’s productivity

Truck registration charges can fluctuate wildly from year to year. Only one in seven trucking businesses can pass on both registration and fuel price changes to their customers. 

ATA response:

• Keep increases in truck charges close to expected CPI.

• Lock truck charges in for each 3-year pricing period, so businesses can manage their cash-flows, quotes and customer expectations. 

• Impose controls on toll road and port access charges. 

• Fund roads against service level standards agreed with industry, including better access for high productivity vehicles and more truck rest areas. 

• Only charge the industry for road projects that are consistent with the standards, so businesses no longer pay directly for commuter projects. 


The challenges:

Australia will need thousands of extra truck drivers by 2025, but we are already short of drivers and other logistics workers. 

Trucking operators compete with every other industry for the same people, but are held back by poor licensing standards and an enforcement system that punishes drivers for making minor paperwork errors. 

ATA response:

• Trucking is a viable, long term, worthwhile career.

• Better facilities to attract more women drivers.

• Greater diversity, including women, First Peoples and migrants.

• Competency-based training and ‘blended’ apprenticeships with specialist modules. 

• Better government funding for training initiatives.

• Protecting drivers from pernicious law ‘enforcement’.

• Driver to driver mentoring.

  Flexible job design. 



The Challenges:

Advances in technology are ready to make our transport system safer and more efficient. 

But government is blocking change. 

Safety and driver assistance technology is improving road safety, including advances for monitoring blind spots, advanced braking and fatigue monitoring for drivers 

Data can assist road agencies to improve congestion management, improving the efficiency of our road network 

Automation can improve record keeping and lower the red tape burden for industry, including the voluntary use of electronic work diaries 

Trucking businesses are already using automation and telematics to improve dispatch systems and ensure businesses are running efficiently 

Zero emission trucks reduce emissions, improve urban air quality, reduce vehicle noise, have lower running costs and improve fuel security. 

ATA response:

  Manage fatigue as a risk. 

• Adopt new technology and proven fatigue management systems. 

• Adopt electronic documentation and electronic notifications. 

• A purchase incentive for zero emission trucks. 

• Abolish urban curfews for zero emission trucks. 

Invest in zero emission truck recharging and refueling infrastructure, with a focus on back to base depot facilities and freight routes. 

• Set a zero-emission truck sales goal of 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040. 

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