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Call for more rest area investment

Fix the underfunded and “crumbling” road freight network and ramp up investment in more rest areas with better facilities for truckies.

Those are just two of the key recommendations in the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) pre-budget submission, which said it had identified a critical gap in the Morrison government’s 10-year $110 billion infrastructure investment pipeline.

While heavy vehicle charges recover about $22 out of every $100 spent on roads, ATA analysis revealed that only $17 of that supports freight.

That leaves an infrastructure gap of an estimated $4.7 billion, said the ATA.

To ensure heavy vehicle charges are spent on freight infrastructure, Budget 2022-23 should include a new $5 billion truck roads and rest areas program over the 10-year infrastructure pipeline, the ATA’s submission believes.

“This should incorporate the existing Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, lifting the average annual spend from $76.35 million to $500 million (an additional $423.65 million annually).”

The ATA also calls for the adoption of a national rest area strategy under the increased funding push before the government announces the next budget on March 29.

“Rest areas are a critical part of the road network, but for too long they have been treated as an after-thought. This must change.”

The ATA says the existing funding programs for rest areas are “woefully insufficient”.

“Funding under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP) is one of the Australian Government’s main programs for funding rest areas, yet only 8.5 per cent of HVSPP investment is going to rest areas, parking bays and decoupling sites ($22 million out of $259.3 million in Australian Government funding).

“Approved projects from round six (2018) and seven (2020) will only result in 15 new rest areas from 226 projects. Considering the period of funding, the average annual spend on rest areas under the HVSPP is just $5.5 million.”

The ATA believes a minimum of 20 per cent of the proposed $5 billion truck roads and rest areas program should be reserved for rest area projects.

“This would provide at least $100 million each year and establish fixing rest areas as a national priority.”

The submission says the federal government also must take responsibility for funding and operating all major freight roads through the national highways program.

It also says the government must take responsibility for granting access approvals for heavy vehicles on national highways.

The submission calls for our national freight roads to be upgraded to meet minimum safety star ratings.

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