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Rest area proposals now in the hands of federal transport minister

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Just nine rest area proposals were put forward by state and local governments for funding assessment at the latest meeting of the Albanese Government’s Heavy Vehicle Rest Area Steering Committee.

Of those, only “five or six” were assessed as “very worthy” by the committee which comprises of Senator Glenn Sterle as chair, four industry representatives and five truckies.

Sterle told Big Rigs that two of those proposals were sent back to the sources for more information, and one was deemed not worthy of going any further.

Those proposals to get the tick of approval now go to Transport Minister Catherine King who will decide which ones will be the first to get the green light with regional projects funded on an 80/20 basis (federal/state), and metro pitches a 50/50 split.

The Australian Government has committed $140 million over 10 years to support new and upgraded heavy vehicle rest areas within this initiative, under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program.

“I’m not allowed to say where they [the proposals] are because the minister hasn’t ticked off on them, but we’ve got some things moving,” Sterle said.

“I’ll be back in Canberra next week and say, ‘Hello minister, have you seen the proposals so far?’

“We’re very keen to get things rolling. Of course, we’re at the mercy of the states as to when they get the crews digging.

“I can’t say there’ll be shovels in the ground next week, but the states have been good and we have a new tranche open now that closes in January for the next round.”

Sterle concedes he would have liked to see more proposals but reiterated that the government department is working closely with its state counterparts to encourage more applications.

“I would love a lot more activity coming from the states and local government, make no mistake about that,” Sterle said.

Sterle said every region put in a proposal, aside from the Northern Territory.

“I think NSW had about four but that’s about all I can say.”

Sterle said the committee is also very keen to see the results of the online survey that opened up to truckies in July asking them where they’d like to see new sites or improvements made to existing facilities.

“No one knows where we need our heavy vehicle rest areas better than the men and women who will be sleeping in them.

“I want to see them [the survey results] so I can say to the states, ‘What about these’?

Sterle said the next committee meeting will be in January.

“We want to get the money out the door.”

Truckie Rod Hannifey, who is on the committee in his capacity as president of the National Road Freighters Association, said he’s hoping the minister will sign off on at least one of the proposals before the end of the year.

Now the funding guidelines have been ironed out he’s also hopeful that awareness of how the program works, and interest in the funding will only grow among state and local governments from here.

“There are still things outside those guidelines that I’m pushing for and one of them is the use of stockpile sites,” Hannifey said.

“The other is green reflectors and those two go hand-in-hand in some ways.”

Hannifey said he only recently driving between the NSW village of Pilliga and Coonamble when he realised there wasn’t one site for truckies over the hour or so journey.

He now plans to go to Transport for NSW and alert them to the lack of facilities and ask if they’re willing to look at something “cheap and effective” utilising the new funding pool.

“Now that funding’s there I can now go to them and say here is a specific need for you to look at.

“It’s not a highly travelled road but a simple, cheap solution might save somebody’s life.

“We don’t need a 57 B-double parking bay out there.”

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