Does Labor really have a reform agenda for trucking?

A new Federal Government is in town. They have had time to find their feet. But is there a reform agenda for this industry? That is not clear.

The Australian Trucking Association has provided some ideas for them to consider. But there are three clear premises:

1. Government needs to engage with industry; not ‘consult’ and forget.

2. That engagement must be at a senior level.

3. Time is of the essence.

In this edition, the ATA sets out its advice on safety. The next edition will focus on productivity.

Safety target

The ATA’s target is zero deaths and zero injuries. The improvement rate over the ten years to December 2020 was only 2.5 per cent per year. 

The ATA argues that more ambitious targets are needed to get safer results.

Our recommendation: set a target of 25 per cent reduction of crashes involving trucks per year. Here’s how:

• The Australian Government funding and operating all major freight roads 

• National standards to guide road spending, rest area improvements and safety

• Enable the use of modern truck combinations that are safer

• An additional 10-year, $5 billion truck roads and rest area program 

• Full expensing for trucks and trailers for newer, safer, more sustainable trucks

• No-blame safety investigations of truck crashes – lessons learned

• 100 km/h speed limit everywhere in Australia 

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

Safer roads 

Only $17 out of every $100 spent on roads supports freight. That amounts to billions of dollars each year. The industry pays for this through road charges. 

But the selection, delivery and funding options are invisible to the industry as customers. 

The recent decision to remove freight road specialists from the Infrastructure Australia board is poor. So now we need a better process. Freight project selection and delivery should be agreed between government and industry annually. Delivery and funding updates need to be published. By program, each six months.

 Industry needs coordinated transport infrastructure plans which include access and future investment priorities to fix network gaps. This year’s additional budget announcement of an extra $80 million is great. But it is trying to fill a big bucket of neglect.

Safer trucks 

The Australian truck fleet is old by international standards. Older trucks have the highest crash frequencies and lack improved safety technology. Older trucks produce higher emissions. 

More than 20 per cent of heavy vehicles are pre 1996 trucks with no emission standards (except smoke). Less than half of Australia’s truck fleet meets the latest emission standards. Older trucks have poor community impacts, including noise. Older trucks perform poorly and have a greater toll on drivers. 

Some solutions:

• Full expensing for trucks and trailers for newer, safer, more sustainable trucks on our roads

• A purchase incentive for zero emission trucks. 

Safer speeds

The evidence is clear. Too many Australians die on our roads because of speed. Cars zipping around heavy vehicles is dangerous and kills people. A standard 100km/h speed limit across Australia is recommended. But the industry also needs truck crashes to be investigated and publish what the causes are. That way we can make a difference.  

The recent NTI report on truck risks is important here. It identifies the greatest insurance risks. You would think the NHVR would talk to the NTI and work together on the highest risk categories. Let’s hope that work starts. 

This week the focus is on safety. Next edition: productivity.

Drive safely and if you see something dangerous, call it out – you will save lives.

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