Innovation key to community harmony
As the freight task continues to grow, fuelled by population growth and rising demand for consumer goods, interactions between the freight industry and the communities we serve will commensurately increase.
This reinforces the need for the industry to work closely with communities to ensure the mutual needs of each group are being met, and that common ground can be found on contentious issues and areas of disagreement.
Groups representing communities where there are intensive freight movements are notorious for complaints about noise, air quality and traffic congestion. These mostly legitimate concerns need to be balanced against the interests of the industry, and our absolute right to use infrastructure to go about our business and keep the economy ticking over.
The industry cannot afford to continue to accept outright bans on roads and other infrastructure from state and local governments that typically put the interests of constituents ahead of freight operators, which is where creative thinking and innovation is needed more than ever to come up with workable solutions.
The Victorian Transport Association has developed one such plan in conjunction with the Maribyrnong Track Action Group (MTAG), which for years has lobbied for restrictions on heavy vehicle movements in Melbourne’s inner west, adjacent the Port of Melbourne.
Under our Cleaner Freight Initiative plan, inner west communities, freight operators and the environment would benefit from incentivising operators to use modern, lower emission trucks as a condition for them being able to travel through the area for longer hours on presently curfewed roads.
The plan would see access times for trucks using Francis Street, Somerville Road and Moore Street in Yarraville increased for accredited operators and reduced for those without accreditation.
To qualify, operators must use prime movers that have low emission Euro 5 compliant or greater engines. Exhausts would be fitted with emission control systems, and dangerous goods placarded vehicles required to display highly-reflective conspicuity tape to increase visibility.
Under the plan, accredited operators would be fitted with GPS technology, and data made available for third party review as an enforcement and compliance tool.
Curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road would also be introduced, and reduced speed limits of 50 km/h applied to all vehicles using gazetted freight routes in the City of Maribyrnong as part of the plan.
Locally based operators and local deliveries would continue to be exempt from the curfews.
Productivity gains, accredited operators will receive, from having longer access to curfewed roads will offset criteria they will have to meet to qualify.
The community also benefits from trucks being replaced by younger, more efficient fleets operated by drivers who have had specialist training covering local freight routes, bridges, school zones, bicycle routes and noise abatement.
The Cleaner Freight Initiative is further evidence of leadership from the VTA in creating greater harmony between residents and freight operators, with higher standards and productivity gains for accredited operators being the key outcomes for operators and the industry.
The plan responsibly addresses the safety and environmental concerns of residents and equips drivers with a specific skills-set for operating in residential communities.
It is a key part of the VTA’s strategy of harmonising community amenity with economic productivity, and of demonstrating the values and efficiencies that can be gained by transport companies renewing their fleet with younger vehicles.
When implemented, changes to local government bylaws would enable council and VicRoads to enforce the plan. Drivers would be required to carry a card showing their certification, and a visible identifier would be displayed on vehicles that qualify for curfew exemptions.
While the Cleaner Freight Initiative was developed by the VTA and MTAG to address resident concerns about heavy vehicles operating in the City of Maribyrnong, there is no reason it cannot be a model for other major cities around Australia, where there are pockets of intensive freight movements in residential areas.
The VTA has been encouraged by a positive response to the plan by Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan and the City of Maribyrnong, and we are working hard to secure endorsement of the plan from VicRoads so that it can be enacted.