Opinion

Time for a national approach to freight routes

It’s tough to be an Australian transport operator at the best of times. Our drivers are used to battling huge distances, harsh terrain, natural disasters, scorching days and freezing nights. But let’s face it, right now is hardly the best of times. And still transport operators keep delivering for Australia.

The news headlines since last December say it all:

• Truckies epic detour to stock shelves

• Road freight a lifeline for the west as SA floods cut rail networks

• Why the food supply chain is still struggling despite COVID changes

• Crisis more terrifying than any Covid headline

Covid-19, supply chain issues, the AdBlue shortage and the record-breaking floods have combined to create what should be a perfect storm for the trucking industry.

However, Australia’s transport operators just keep on going, not matter what is thrown at them.

And while the resilience of our industry should be celebrated, it’s disappointing to realise that many of the issues we’ve been dealing with could have been avoided with some foresight.

For example, the floods exposed the fractured and backwards access situation across Australia, with inconsistent state-based rules dictating which heavy vehicles are allowed to cross borders.

To get vital supplies from SA to the NT, operators had to divert thousands of kilometres through NSW and Queensland.

However, drivers were going to have to stop at the NSW border and drop off a trailer because NSW wouldn’t allow road trains up to 53.5 metres.

The ATA lobbied hard for an emergency intervention. The lobbying worked and the emergency intervention was granted with help from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

However, this is only a temporary fix and soon, the situation will return to the status quo.

The answer is to allow the National Land Transport Network to be truly national and include all major truck routes.

The Australian Government must also take responsibility for granting access approvals for heavy vehicles on national highways, rather than depending on the states to decide which trucks can run on freight routes.

We’re calling for the Australian Government to take responsibility for funding and operating all major freight roads through the national highways program.

The current state-based system is dysfunctional and fragmented. It’s falling apart and failing Australians and has been since Federation.

I’d especially like to thank all operators for their perseverance over the past two years. The industry has done a fantastic job.

That job would be so much easier if some of the dysfunctional issues plaguing the industry are resolved.

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