Truckies are now invited to have an input in how $140 million for rest area projects will be spent over the next 10 years.
In a statement announcing that new guidelines are out and funding for the federal government’s Heavy Vehicle Rest Area Initiative was now open, truckies are also being encouraged to take part in a rest area survey.
The government says that information is designed to provide input on the location and condition of existing rest areas and to provide advice on where additional sites may be required.
However, the steering committee tasked with recommending how the money will be spent, can only consider projects put forward by state, territory and local governments.
High-profile driver Rod Hannifey, who is on that committee in his capacity as president of the National Road Freighters Association, welcomed the news that truckies will now have a say.
He lobbied for that change earlier this year and is pleased to see that Canberra has listened.
But is still unsure about truckies’ input gets to those who have the authority to apply for project funding.
“We haven’t raised that [yet] because getting all that up was the first step,” Hannifey said.
“Now we’ve got an avenue for blokes to write in and comment and let’s say we get a 1000 blokes to do that, then they well be able to go to the council and say, ‘Are you aware of this issue?’
“Without me asking to do that in the first place, we wouldn’t have that information to start with.”
A Department of Infrastructure spokesperson told Big Rigs that if survey feedback indicates support from truck drivers for a specific rest area or the location for a new one, this will provide additional evidence that there is a need from truck drivers for work at that location.
“The department will then make recommendations for final decision by the minister on projects to receive funding. This will ensure a competitive and transparent process to assess projects and award funding,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also added that the survey data will be de-identified and will not be used for compliance purposes, but may also be used for other “pieces of research or projects on rest areas” conducted by the department. Click here to access a new department website that shares rest area data.
Hannifey added that he’s also encouraged by the widening of scope in the new guidelines to include improvements to areas like stockpile sites, or car rest areas.
“They’ve been a lot more open about that, whereas initially it was just really new money, new rest areas.”
Hannifey said he’s looking forward to the next committee meeting in September when he hopes they will be in a position to approve investment in specific projects.
“We could well have some approved after that meeting,” he said.
“I’m concerned about how the industry will be viewing what we’ve done because they don’t know what the rules are, they want it fixed yesterday, like I do.”
Hannifey said he’s continuing to lobby for ‘quick fixes’ outside the committee’s scope for those very reasons, such as after-hours parking for truckies in metropolitan industrial areas.
To access the short, anonymous online survey, and for more information on the new rest area project guidelines, visit investment.infrastructure.gov.au/about/local-initiatives/heavy-vehicle-safety-and-productivity-program, or the scan the QR code below.
Applications may be submitted year-round which “provides flexibility and allows projects to be submitted when they will most benefit Australia’s heavy vehicle infrastructure.”
“Progressing our $140 million funding commitment for rest areas will be welcome news for the heavy vehicle drivers who are so vital for keeping our country running – filling in gaps in the network,” added committee chair, Senator Glenn Sterle.