Australia’s national truck laws must be substantially redrafted, the Australian Trucking Association said in response to the first issues paper of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review. Read more
The next Australian Government must fix the national truck laws – and save families more than $400 per year, the CEO of the Australian Trucking Association, Ben Maguire, said.
Mr Maguire was releasing a new report from Deloitte Access Economics about the economic benefits of improved regulation in the Australian trucking industry.
“In the eastern states and South Australia, trucking operators are regulated by the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), which determines the trucks we can use and the access permissions that are required,” Mr Maguire said.
“In 2011, it was predicted that the law would deliver up to $12.4 billion in economic benefits.
“This devastating independent report shows that the law has failed. It shows that the productivity of the transport, postal and warehousing sector has fallen every year since the law came into force in 2014.
“We need the next Australian Government to support measures to improve the industry’s productivity, including:
- Streamlining the issue of road access permits.
- Establishing an external, independent review process for access applications.
- Linking road funding to improving access for high productivity trucks.
“The benefits of these reforms would be considerable. According to the report, fixing the law would:
- Save the trucking industry $1.8 billion a year by 2050.
- Reduce vehicle operating costs by 3.7 per cent.
- Reduce the costs of Australian industries by $900 million a year.
- Save a typical Australian household more than $400 per year on their everyday household purchases.
“The next Australian Government must press on with the current review of the HVNL and the Productivity Commission review of the economic impact of the COAG national transport reforms.
“There needs to be substantial reform, not just tweaking or promises of future action. At the same time, however, the vital safety reforms that came into force in 2018 must be preserved,” Mr Maguire said.
The ATA commissioned the Deloitte Access Economics report to support its members in providing input to the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Productivity Commission reviews.
Read the Deloitte Access Economics report.
Australia Post has announced a four-year partnership with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) with a focus on truck safety on the roads. Read more
The Infrastructure Priority List recently released by Infrastructure Australia (IA) has won widespread approval in the freight sector, including the Australian Logistics Council, Australasian Railways Association and the Australian Trucking Association.
ALC: The priority list highlights freight infrastructure opportunities
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said the Infrastructure Priority List released by Infrastructure Australia (IA) highlights continued need for targeted investment in freight infrastructure projects that will enhance supply chain efficiency and safety, and make Australia more internationally competitive.
“It is essential that Australia makes infrastructure investment decisions that are based on sound principles and evidence-based assessments regarding a project’s capacity to contribute to our economic strength, and liveability of our communities,” said ALC chairman Philip Davies.
“In the past, the Infrastructure Priority List has helped to build support for investment in critical freight infrastructure projects which are now being undertaken, including Western Sydney Airport, Inland Rail, the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and more recently the Port Botany freight rail duplication, which was supported in the 2018 Federal Budget.”
“It is especially pleasing to note this year’s list again includes the development of a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy as a high priority initiative.”
“To further boost the effectiveness of that Strategy when it is released later this year, ALC urges governments to prioritise investment in key freight-related initiatives IA has included in this year’s list, including:
- Upgrading Chullora Junction to enhance Sydney’s freight rail network;
- Constructing the North East Link in Melbourne to alleviate traffic congestion and enhance freight efficiency;
- Pursuing a dedicated freight rail connection from Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane;
- Enhancing capacity and traffic flows on the Mitchell and Kwinana Freeways in Perth;
- Completing the upgrade of the Adelaide North-South road corridor to enhance capacity and efficiency of freight movement to the airport and port precincts;
- Investing in road and rail improvements on the Burnie to Hobart freight corridor;
- Implementation of the Advanced Train Management System on the ARTC network; and
- Establishing a national electric vehicle fast-charging network to overcome ‘range anxiety’ among freight logistics operators.
“Australia must do everything possible to eliminate capacity constraints in our freight networks if we wish to succeed in an increasingly competitive global market. Securing investment in these priority projects will help to deliver that outcome.”
ARA backs IA’s strong rail focus in Infrastructure Priority List
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has also welcomed Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) 2019 Infrastructure Priority List.
“IA plays an important role in identifying key infrastructure problems and opportunities to ensure investment is appropriately targeted to areas of greatest need,” said ARA CEO Danny Broad.
“The rail projects included in IA’s 2019 Infrastructure Priority List are important nation-building initiatives and are endorsed by the rail sector,” he continued.
“Pleasingly, there are more rail projects and initiatives in the report compared to the 2018 Infrastructure Priority List, with 54 of the 125 projects and initiatives rail-related.
“As Australia’s population grows, rail infrastructure will increasingly become the backbone to meet Australia’s growing passenger and freight needs. To manage the challenges posed in our cities and regions in the long-term, Australia will need to ensure that it continuously invests in rail infrastructure.
“We know that rail is an efficient, environmentally and socially beneficial mode of transport. We also know that rail has lower emissions than road transport, is safer and can help reduce congestion in our cities.
“The significance of these rail projects identified by IA warrants investment from governments at all levels. Our networks of infrastructure and services connect people and communities, support freight transport across the country, help deliver our resources to overseas markets and continue to generate economic growth and employment,” he said.
ATA welcomes updated Infrastructure Priority List
Infrastructure Australia’s updated Infrastructure Priority List illustrates the importance of evidence-based investment decisions, chairman of the Australian Trucking Association Geoff Crouch said.
“The Infrastructure Priority List provides critical focus on the need to invest in safer regional roads and fixing urban congestion,” Mr Crouch said.
“The new project calling for regional road network safety improvements to invest in fixing high-risk sections of regional roads and deliver safer road infrastructure is a critical priority.
“Infrastructure Australia reports that relative to population size, the number of fatalities in regional areas is over four times higher than for major cities.
“This project now requires government support across Australia, and the ATA strongly welcomes the inclusion of a similar new project by the NSW Government to make regional road safety improvements in NSW.
“Governments should also support the call for a roads network optimisation program to address urban congestion.
“First added to the priority list in 2016 but still without a government proponent, Infrastructure Australia has again reconfirmed the need for governments to make multiple, co-ordinated, productivity enhancements to the road network to reduce congestion.
“These investments should be based on data and seek to optimise traffic flows through investments such as intersection treatments, traffic light sequencing, clearways and incident management.”
The ATA also welcomes the continued inclusion and expansion of projects to address major road investment priorities.
“There’s a long list of proposed road, highway and motorway projects which would make a significant investment to improving safety, connectivity and productivity on the road network,” Mr Crouch said.
Future updates to the Infrastructure Priority List should expand the network-based focus on improving roads to include regional and outback highways and corridors.
“The need to make better use and enable more productive connectivity extends beyond our major cities and their rural hinterlands, and Infrastructure Australia should include network optimisation and access for investing in better regional and outback highways in future priority list updates,” Mr Crouch said.
The planned independent price regulator for truck charges must have the power to regulate toll road and landside port charges. Extra local government road use charges must be banned, the chairman of the Australian Trucking Association Geoff Crouch said.
The Australian Government issued a consultation paper last month on establishing an independent price regulator for the fuel-based road user charge and the very high registration charges paid by trucking operators. The ATA has now published its submission.
“Our members are being hammered by rapidly increasing toll road charges, landside port charges and local government charges,” Mr Crouch said.
“On the M7 in Sydney, for example, truck tolls have increased from the same amount as cars to three times the car toll. Trucking businesses can’t avoid these tolls – it’s not like you can transport a pallet of cleaning products on a bus or bike.
“The ACCC’s announcement that it would not oppose the Transurban consortium bid for WestConnex, followed by the NSW Government’s announcement that the bid was successful, confirms that new laws are needed to control these spiralling charges,” he said.
Mr Crouch said the independent regulator should also have power over landside port charges.
“Landside port surcharges have increased dramatically. Surcharge increases introduced in 2017 have ranged from $20 to $30 per container, and in some cases have increased twice within the one year,” he said.
“In the latest round of unwarranted charge increases, local councils in Western Australia are imposing additional access charges on heavy vehicle operators.
“The ATA submission points to one metropolitan example where a company has had to abandon operating at concessional mass limits because of the excessive local government charges. As a direct result, it now runs an additional 1,420 truck movements per year within the council area for a single product line.
“These ridiculous charges have to stop. The planned independent price regulator must be responsible for regulating toll road and landside port charges. Independent price regulation must also prevent local councils for charging extra for access to their roads.”
The ATA submission rejects the Government’s plan to change the way charges are calculated from the current PAYGO model to a forward-looking cost base.
You can read the ATA submission here.
The Australian Trucking Association has welcomed the establishment of a new reporting line that allows truck drivers and operators to confidentially report safety breaches.
Launched by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), the hotline will receive and assess truck safety concerns to determine what action is required.
“This reporting line is welcome news for the trucking industry, as safety is everyone’s responsibility,” ATA Chair Geoff Crouch said today.
“Many employees and operators, if pressed to act illegally, are worried about losing their contract so they are afraid to report breaches,” he said.
Information and breaches that can be reported include:
- An incident or situation that affects the safety of a heavy vehicle or its operation.
- A procedure, practice or condition that endangers the safety of a heavy vehicle driver, their passengers, other road users or the community.
- A procedure, practice or condition that leads to non-compliance with the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
The Heavy Vehicle Confidential Reporting line is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and operated by Crime Stoppers Queensland.
“The knowledge that all reports will remain confidential should encourage more people to speak out and stand up for safety, without the fear of being punished,” Mr Crouch said.
“We know it happens. In 2012, for example, 17 per cent of trucking companies reported that their customers were likely to impose a financial penalty for late arrivals – a clear breach of the law.
“The first step businesses need to take if they are pressured to break the law is to talk to their customers about its requirements. The ATA/ALC master code of practice will provide customers and industry will clear guidance on how to comply,” he said.
To report a safety breach, phone 1800 931 785.
The ACCC should not approve the sale of WestConnex to Sydney Transport Partners (STP), because in the long run it would push up truck tolls even further, the chairman of the Australian Trucking Association Geoff Crouch said.
“Transurban is the majority interest holder in STP. It already holds, or has majority control of, 15 of the 19 toll road concessions in Australia,” Mr Crouch said.
In a submission to the ACCC, the ATA said the proposed acquisition would reduce competition for the construction, ownership and operation of toll roads in NSW. The ATA said it would give Transurban an increased ability to secure new toll road concessions based on increasing the heavy vehicle multiplier on its existing toll road assets.
In Sydney, the NSW Government’s tolling principles require truck tolls to be at least three times higher than car tolls, and Transurban has demonstrated a willingness to use interstate truck toll multipliers as part of its case for increasing local multipliers.
“The 16,000 hardworking trucking businesses in New South Wales cannot afford the truck tolls they are charged now. The proposed sale would inevitably result in tolls becoming even higher,” Mr Crouch said.
“Motorists have the ability to hop on the train or catch the bus if they wish to avoid toll roads, but a freight transporter can’t strap their load to the back of a bicycle and hope for the best,” he said.
Mr Crouch dismissed the argument that high truck tolls simply reflected the increased road maintenance cost caused by heavy vehicle use.
“For a fully laden, six-axle articulated truck, the estimated marginal cost of road wear on an urban toll road is 16 cents per kilometre. On the M7, for example, the truck toll of $1.19 per kilometre is more than seven times the actual cost,” he said.
Read the ATA submission here.
The Australian Logistics Council, Australasian Railway Association, Ports Australia and Shipping Australia have joined together to call for clarification of how the Biosecurity Levy, announced by the Australian Government in the Federal Budget, will operate. Particularly how the generated revenue will be spent.
The proposed Biosecurity Import Levy will charge $10.02 per incoming container and $1 per tonne of non-containerised cargo, generating an estimated revenue of $360 million.
Ports Australia chief executive Mike Gallacher said: “Our concern is that this import levy has been announced with almost no engagement with the supply chain and with no plan on how it will be used in the biosecurity system.
“The complete lack of detail on this ambiguous proposal lends weight to the impression that it is a broad import levy across all goods coming into the country.
“The revenue measure estimates $360 million over three years. Only $76.6 million of this is will be spent enhancing Australia’s biosecurity system over the same period.
“That leaves $283.4 million unaccounted for.
“The Port sector has stringent biosecurity measures and will always continue to leverage our expert capabilities to meet the Australian Government’s objectives on biosecurity.
“Australians use and interact with the supply chain every day, from food to cars furniture to building materials it is essential for day to day life. Yet there has been virtually no engagement on this plan for a blanket charge on imported goods moving through the supply chain.”
The shipping industry’s peak body Shipping Australia Limited chief executive Rod Nairn said: “A budget that at its core promises tax cuts for all Australians will simultaneously slug Australians almost $290 million to import the goods they use every day, with no clear explanation of the biosecurity benefit.
“If $360 million is needed to protect Australia’s unique environmental assets than there should be a plan detailing precisely what the money is paying for and how the government arrived at the figure.
“This is another example where one sector of the supply chain is being forced to fund something that is not directly related. As things stand, this levy measure currently has no clarity, no plan and no purpose.”
Australian Logistics Council managing director Michael Kilgariff said: “Measures in the Budget are expected to be accurately costed. There should be no exception for this one.
“Until such details are made clear, a broad charge on every item imported from another country simply cannot be justified. The freight logistics sector should not be used as a ‘cash cow’ to fund unrelated Budget initiatives.
“Not only will everyday consumers be impacted by this measure on containerised goods, but anyone importing non-container goods will pay $1 a tonne.
“That means a construction business importing 50,000 tonnes of concrete will now have to pay an additional $50,000. Imagine the impact such a measure will have on infrastructure costs.”
Australasian Railway Association chief executive Danny Broad said: “The proposed levy is a significant issue for ARA members and everyday Australians. The levy will ripple right through the supply chain and hit the end consumer. Every product that comes through our ports, onto our rail networks and delivered to the consumers will feel the effects of this levy.
“Industry is committed to continue working with the Government cooperatively to enhance biosecurity.
“However, urgent clarification and rationale is needed on the details of this new levy, which is being imposed with almost no consultation with those it will affect the most.”
Road transporters fear they’ll be the collecting agency, again
Peak body Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) has described the new Biosecurity Levy on cargo as a re-run of the crippling port surcharges already imposed on truck operators.
RFNSW today joined supply chain stakeholders in calling for further details from the Federal Government on the justification for the new levy.
“From our perspective, it’s a re-run of the port infrastructure surcharges which have been slapped on truck operators with no consultation, no explanation and certainly no justification. Nothing more than a blatant cash grab,” RFNSW’s chief executive officer Simon O’Hara said.
“Of the $360 million raised through the Biosecurity Levy, it’s estimated that only $76.6 million is actually being spent on biosecurity – that’s why it’s only fair and reasonable that our industry stakeholders are calling on the Government to explain where the rest of the money will be used.
“Undoubtedly, such a blanket surcharge, like the port infrastructure taxes imposed on truckies, will simply be added to goods all through the supply chain.
“Everyone in the freight logistics sector will be hit, and hurt, by this new tax.
“Our members, who are already struggling to operate on increasingly tight margins as a result of the port taxes imposed by stevedores, are going to be impacted. And ultimately, so will Australian consumers who will be paying more for their imported goods.
“RFNSW joins the Australian Logistics Council, Australasian Railway Association, Ports Australia and Shipping Australia in raising our concerns about this new import tax and calling on the government to give us a ‘please explain’.”
The TWU says hundreds of truck drivers and their supporters protested on an April weekend in all major capitals as a new survey shows 93% of drivers want to see changes to make transport safer and less pressured.
Drivers sat on Oxford Street in Sydney and marched in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in a stark message to the Federal Government, which shut down a road safety watchdog two years ago, “allowing wealthy retailers like Aldi to financially squeeze transport”, the TWU said.
The driver survey shows almost 93% of drivers also say pressure on them is continuing or increasing, with drivers listing the financial squeeze from major supermarkets and manufacturers, bad roads, unsafe truck stops and unrealistic deadlines major sources of pressure. Over 1,000 drivers responded to the survey, which was conducted following police blitzes on trucks after a spate of crashes.
The survey comes two years after the Federal Government shut down the watchdog that was investigating safety in trucking and holding major companies to account for low cost contracts which means their goods cannot be delivered safely.
“Two years ago the Federal Government scrapped scrutiny and accountability on the major manufacturers and retailers like Aldi over poor rates in their supply chains. This financial pressure means that trucks are not being maintained and drivers are being pushed to speed, drive long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks. This is devastating families across Australia because of truck crashes and it means drivers are copping all the blame for problems in the industry,” TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine said.
“The only response from the Federal Government to the spike in deaths has been to increase the number of speed cameras to catch drivers and to have police fine them over breaches. This will not solve the problems in the industry and it will not cut the number of crashes. Unless wealthy clients are held to account for low cost contracts the problem in this industry will only worsen,” Mr Kaine added.
Industry not convinced
The TWU’s traditional enemies the (large) industry body the Australian Logistics Council and the transport owners’ Australian Trucking Association (ATA) have predictably come out against the idea of reinstating the RSRT.
The ATA has outright dismissed calls for its reinstatement, ATA chairman Geoff Crouch saying the TWU claims there has been 92 per cent increase in truck crashes in NSW since the watchdog was shut down, but there is no correlation between the two.
“In 2017, the number of deaths in NSW from crashes involving articulated trucks like semitrailers increased dramatically but we know most of the increase in deaths was in multi-vehicle crashes, 80 per cent of which were not the fault of the truck driver,” Mr Crouch said.
“In the same period, no other states or territories experienced an increase in fatal crashes involving articulated trucks, with the majority seeing significant decreases.
“Transport owners and operators have told us the devastating impact of the RSRT included financial hardship, increased debt, reduced equipment values, widespread uncertainty and significant stress on families, relationships and mental health,” Mr Crouch said.
“The ATA backs recent comments from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry that say reinstating the RSRT is a backwards step. The transport industry is essential to the fabric that holds the Australian economy together and they deserve better.
Similarly, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said suggestions that the former Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) should be reconstituted within the Fair Work Commission are part of a continuing industrial campaign that will do nothing to improve heavy vehicle safety.
“Improving heavy vehicle safety is an enormously important national objective – and it should not be conflated with a continuing industrial campaign within some sections of the industry,” said ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff.
“ALC continues to believe that the most effective way to enhance safety in the heavy vehicle industry is by achieving greater compliance with, and enforcement of, the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).”
“These CoR provisions will be significantly strengthened and enhanced by changes due to come into effect later this year, and our focus should be on ensuring compliance with those changes. That is why ALC has been working in partnership with the Australian Trucking Association for the past year to develop an industry-wide Master Code for heavy vehicle safety, capable of becoming a registered industry code of practice under the HVNL,” Mr Kilgariff noted.
Barnaby Joyce has been replaced as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport by the new Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.
The new minister was sworn in on the morning of Monday 26 February after Joyce announced he would be stepping down from his position in the Cabinet.
McCormack declared his intention to run for the leadership of the National Party on Friday, 23 February, and was formally elected. National MP George Christensen contested the challenge, but said in a media statement later that he “looks forward to working with the new leader while representing the people of central and north Queensland.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement that he was delighted to welcome the appointment of McCormack as the new leader of the National Party.
Darren Chester, who until recently was Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, welcomed McCormack and thanked Joyce for his efforts.
“I welcome the election of Michael McCormack as leader of the Nationals,” said Chester. “His determination, professionalism and work ethic make him an ideal leader of our team.
“I want to acknowledge former leader Barnaby Joyce and recognise his many achievements as Deputy Prime Minister. Under his leadership, the Nationals delivered policies and projects that made a different in the lives of regional Australians.”
The road transport industry welcomed the appointment, including the Chair of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Geoff Crouch.
“Michael McCormack will bring great drive and determination to the infrastructure and transport portfolio,” said Crouch.
“I have known Michael for more than 20 years. He is a proven advocate for small business, and regional and remote Australia. I’m confident he’ll bring this drive and determination to supporting the road transport industry.”
Crouch said that Minister McCormack had demonstrated an understanding of the importance of the road transport industry, having said in Parliament [on 14 March, 2012]: “If it needs to be carried, carted, dumped, hauled, moved, shifted or transported, there is every likelihood a truck or trailer will be the most economical, fastest and most reliable way of getting it from point A to point B.”
Crouch said the appointment of Minister McCormack was an opportunity to focus the transport agenda on improving safety and boosting productivity.
“Trucking is critical to connecting Australians with goods and exports, as Michael McCormack knows well,” said Crouch.
“But road transport must be safe, and must keep Australian businesses competitive in global markets.
“The ATA looks forward to engaging with the Deputy Prime Minister on the need for independent and expert safety investigations of heavy vehicle accidents by the [Australian Transport Safety Bureau – ATSB – ed.] on implementing the new laws on Chain of Responsibility, and ensuring our fatigue laws and rest areas are focused on saving lives.
“We also need to enable economic opportunity by boosting productivity, improving road access, building better and safer roads and eliminating over-regulation,” he said.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said it is pleased that McCormack will also assume the role of Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
“It is pleasing that the second most senior figure in the Government will retain portfolio responsibility for this crucial area, given the importance of developing transport infrastructure to support national supply chain efficiency and build Australia’s export capacity,” said ALC Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff.
“As an industry leader on freight and supply chain policy, ALC always seeks to have a cooperative and productive relationship with the key ministers in portfolio areas that impact our industry,” he said.
Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Peter Anderson also welcomed the appointment. “The Victorian Transport Association wishes to congratulate Michael McCormack on his election as Leader of the Nationals, and his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport,” said Anderson. “We have worked closely with his predecessors in these vital portfolio areas, and we look forward to working with the Minister and his team to develop policies and solutions that improve conditions for freight and logistics operators throughout Australia.”