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Kirk Coningham

Budget must establish the road to reform

April 2019

The Federal Budget on 2 April will be the last prior to the expected release of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

Freight logistics industry professionals have already invested a significant amount of effort to help the Federal Government shape the content of the Strategy.

This year’s Budget is the Government’s opportunity to deliver a return on that investment by supporting initiatives that will help Australia meet a growing freight task.

Accordingly, ALC’s pre-Budget submission to the Federal Government put forward specific recommendations to invest in critical infrastructure and to pursue regulatory reform initiatives that will enhance the performance of our supply chains.

This includes key opportunities to undertake reform in the road sector.

In 2016-17 the Australian road freight task equated to approximately $228 tonne/kilometres. This is up from $202 billion tonne/kilometres just four years previously.

Given that strong growth in Australia’s freight task is expected to continue, it is vitally important therefore that heavy vehicles can operate efficiently and safely.

As an industry leader, ALC has played a role in supporting this objective by working to develop the industry-wide Master Code for Heavy Vehicle Safety, in partnership with the Australian Trucking Association.

With the Master Code having been registered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator in late November 2018, it is now available for the use of all industry participants.

But there is scope for the Federal Government to do more.

The Commonwealth Government’s National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 is another vital initiative for enhancing the safety of our road networks.

ALC continues to support the National Road Safety Strategy and is pleased that since 2011 the number of fatalities from crashes involving heavy vehicles has reduced.

However, ALC is also mindful of the fact that Australia is currently not on track to meet the road safety targets agreed by all governments in 2011.

In its submission to the Inquiry into the progress under the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 undertaken last year, ALC again recommended that the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) should require heavy vehicles to carry telematics equipment, and that operators should be required to meet a National Operating Standard.

These priorities should be pursued as part of the review of the HVNL being undertaken by the National Transport Commission this year. Additionally, ALC’s pre-Budget submission also recommends the Federal Government prioritise investment in educational initiatives designed to educate light vehicle drivers how to safely interact with heavy vehicles.

ALC further suggests that the Budget support a feasibility study into the establishment of a Federal Office of Road Safety, to progress and monitor the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 (and its successor strategies), as well as to drive greater national consistency in the design and implementation of road safety initiatives.

ALC also views this year’s Budget as an opportunity to do something meaningful about one of the freight logistics industry’s biggest challenges – a lack of consistent data that can help to monitor and measure supply chain performance.

This lack of a solid evidence base makes it difficult for governments to prioritise investments and accurately measure the impact of new policies or infrastructure investments.

Similarly, a better pool of data would also help the industry more effectively utilise existing infrastructure – boosting the sector’s productivity.

To address these issues, ALC has called for the Budget to fund the establishment of a Freight Observatory.

This body would be responsible for monitoring and measuring supply chain performance, developing performance indicators, and making data available to public and private decision-makers to permit better investment and operational decisions.

In support of this objective, ALC has also asked that the Budget ensure the Bureau for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) is properly resourced to continue the Road Freight Telematics Data Project.

This project is designed to develop experimental indicators that could help to identify congested networks and measure average travel speed and travel times on key freight routes, as well as the location and duration of rest breaks for drivers.

These indicators could be used to inform operational decisions and infrastructure investment – including new heavy vehicle rest areas.

The professionals working in the road freight sector deliver the goods that are essential in the day-to-day activities of all Australians.

Incorporating investments such as those outlined above in this year’s Budget will help them to undertake their work more efficiently – and get home to their families safely.

Kirk Coningham
Australian Logistics Council

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