The federal government has promised $250 million as part of a revised joint program designed to help improve heavy vehicle safety, keep freight moving and create jobs.
The Bridges Renewal Program (BRP) and the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP) will now run in unison, so applicants can source appropriate programs for their projects – with up to 80 per cent of the total project cost on offer.
Eligible projects will include upgrading or replacing ageing bridges and road projects which improve the productivity and safety of heavy vehicle movements across Australia.
Applications will be assessed on an ongoing basis.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce said changes to the program guidelines will give applicants better access to funding, ensuring the road upgrades Australia needs can be funded and delivered.
“Keeping heavy vehicles safe and moving on our roads is key to maintaining a strong economy into the future,” Joyce said.
With reportedly over $760 million ongoing funding locked in for the BRP and $607 million for the HSVPP, Australian Trucking Association chair, David Smith believes the revised funding will result in more rest areas and better road access for safer and more productive trucks.
“As far as the trucking industry is concerned, every new rest area on the roads is a win,” said Smith.
“Truck drivers need rest areas so they can take safety breaks and meet their compliance obligations. But there just aren’t enough rest areas on the road system.
“For example, you need 42 standard semi-trailer trips to deliver a thousand tonnes of freight. If the road and bridges are upgraded to handle B-doubles, you can deliver the same amount of freight in only 26 trips.”
Put simply, upgrading bridges will allow the industry to use more modern truck configurations, which would result in lower costs, fewer truck movements and improved safety.
While government has the prerogative to insist on the requirements, Smith believes there is still much left to be desired under the current funding guidelines, pointing out that provision for rest facilities has already developed by Austroads.
“When a bridge or road is upgraded under these programs, the local council should be required to add them to the defined network and not require trucking businesses to lodge expensive and time-consuming permit applications,” Smith explained.
“Austroads developed these guidelines in consultation with the industry. They set out the facilities that drivers should be able to expect at rest areas as a basic right.”
Smith also stressed that bridge and productivity upgrades should also include automatic access for the appropriate class of truck.
“High productivity trucks need special permits to operate unless they are travelling on a defined network of roads,” Smith added.
According to a joint statement between the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and the Department of Road Safety and Freight Transport, the revised programs will be the subject of continuous assessment.