WA trucking boss reiterates call for weather-proof freight network

freight network

WA trucking boss Cam Dumesny supports the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) pre-budget submission for a $5 billion industry spend over the next 10 years, but fears it’s still not enough and won’t be spent in the right places.

The Western Roads Federation CEO was reacting to the ATA’s case for fixing freight roads, dangerous level crossings and to build more rest areas for truck drivers ahead of the 2024-25 federal budget release in May.

Dumesny said it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Labor is a “government of the east coast.”

“We need investment in our Top End road networks that run between WA, the NT and Queensland, and our networks that run across the bottom and up the centre,” Dumesny said.

“You’ve got 60 per cent of the continent – WA, NT, western Queensland, SA – that are routinely cut off on freight networks by weather events, and we’re just not making any headway on fixing it.

“We’ve been going for 10 years now with constant disruption and there are still no major plans and we still don’t have a national freight strategy.

“We need a national freight strategy beyond the Melbourne-Brisbane-Sydney corridor.”

As just one example of why he feels Canberra’s infrastructure investment priorities are awry, Dumesny cites the investment of $125 billion in the outer rail loop in Melbourne.

“It has no business case, yet we as an industry, according to Roads Australia, contribute $236 billion [annually] directly and indirectly to the Australian economy and we’re asking for just $500 million a year in extra investment.

“I think we could be more ambitious, but at least they’ve put a budget submission in which is to be commended.”

ATA chair David Smith said the government needs to “make freight roads better”.

“To keep truck drivers safe, the government needs to fix dangerous level crossings,” he said. “And we need a concerted effort to fix rest areas, because the task is huge, and drivers aren’t seeing enough in the way of results.

“Australia must also invest in developing a defined all-weather network, with a supporting secondary network pre-approved for use, in the wake of road network closures due to fires, floods and crashes.”

To achieve this, Smith said the Australian Government should assume responsibility for major freight roads through the national highways program.

“This should include funding and operational responsibilities, including granting access approvals for heavy vehicles.

“The 2024-25 budget should include a new, $5 billion truck roads, level crossings and rest areas program over the next 10 years. All the projects under the program should be linked to results, such as improving safety and enabling the industry to increase its use of high productivity trucks.

“Increasing the use of high productivity trucks would reduce total vehicle movements, reduce congestion growth and lower the cost of freight. High productivity trucks are more likely to be safer, quieter and less emissions intensive.

Smith believes that the government’s immediate priority should be to fund the road upgrades needed to allow 35 metre modular A-doubles on the Hume Highway in NSW.

“These trucks with two trailers can carry 44 pallets of freight, compared to 36 pallets in the 26 metre long B-doubles that are commonly used now,” he said.

The ATA’s submission also argues that the government should:

  • re-establish temporary full expensing for trucks and trailers and fund the states to reform stamp duty to encourage businesses to buy new, safer vehicles.
  • support productivity and innovation by modifying the upcoming closing loopholes bill to ban the Fair Work Commission from mandating minimum freight rates
  • redesignate truck driving as skill level 3 under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) to enable eligible migrants to access truck driving work in Australia, provided they can meet Australia’s strict licensing requirements.

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