It’s no great surprise that our productivity is falling

The trucking industry is being buffeted by increasingly strong headwinds, with operators dealing with issues such as escalating fuel costs, staff shortages and the escalating cost of living. 

As we often say, the trucking industry keeps delivering for Australia, no matter what is thrown at it. But with the best will in the world, something has to change or many trucking operators could buckle under the pressure.

The ATA believes the federal government can create that change. 

For example, the new Albanese government is more than six months into the job and has made it very clear that productivity is a top priority. 

The ATA shares the view that productivity is essential. It’s no surprise that productivity in the trucking industry is falling.

One of the key areas that needs to be addressed is the absolutely archaic road access permit system. 

As I said earlier this year in Big Rigs, the current permit system is a dinosaur and gives ‘the finger’ to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s commitment to productivity.

It’s cumbersome. It doesn’t work. And there seems absolutely no point in waiting for the National Transport Commission to pull its finger out and resolve the issue.

At the moment, trucking operators are working with their hands metaphorically tied behind their backs. 

For example, there are 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 artificial limits on highly productive freight vehicles causes congestion and increases costs.

To make matters even worse, there is complete inconsistency between states.

In contrast, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are widely recognised for better access. Those state and territory governments partner with and recognise the essential character of trucking.

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

The ATA proposes the following solution: 

• Reduce the number of access permits by at least 95 per cent. It would define vehicle access on the National Land Transport Network to include combinations up to 53.5 metres.

• Replace the permit system and 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. PBS vehicles would be handled the same way.

• Change heavy vehicle registration by transitioning the HVNL to a Commonwealth law which would enable heavy vehicle plates to become truly national.

The inconsistencies in the current scheme would be eliminated and heavy vehicle registrations would be exempt from state stamp duty.

There is nothing consumed in this country that does not ride on the back of a truck. So, it’s worth remembering that a streamlined road access system will not only benefit the transport industry, it will also flow through to our customers. 

This is why access and high productivity are so very important and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

  • David Smith is Chair of the Australian Trucking Association

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