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VTA CEO highlights productivity imperative at 2017 State Conference

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) Chief Executive, Peter Anderson (pictured left), has warned of “major productivity challenges” facing Australia’s freight and logistics industry in his opening remarks to the Association’s annual State Conference in Lorne.

“There’s no doubt … that productivity improvement remains the main objective of every one of you, regardless of the size of your fleet or the number of people you employ,” Anderson addressed the 170 delegates at the Conference’s opening session.

“As operators, you are in business to be profitable and successful. And that can only be accomplished by finding new ways to reduce your costs, eliminate inefficiencies, and improve your productivity measures.”

Anderson also pointed out that a stagnant economy meant it was a “challenging time for all freight operators” in Australia.

“Freight movements are generally down thanks to a stagnant economy, and operator margins that are already stretched thin are being further squeezed by higher input and variable costs,” he explained, adding that increasing regulatory pressure was an ongoing pain point for industry. 

In line with previous remarks, Anderson also pointed to higher road and infrastructure user charges as a reason for eroding margins, saying the onus was now on industry to “extract greater productivity from their systems, their equipment, their people, their customers and their suppliers” to remain viable and successful.

To balance the picture, Anderson also pointed to the many successes industry has recently been able to celebrate, especially in the fields of technology and innovation, safety, training and human resources, as well as infrastructure.

“This time last year I was lamenting the absence of funding in the Victorian budget for the North East Link,” he said. We now have a North East Link Authority established and actively putting together the business case and corridor study for the connection, which will finally link the M80 to EastLink or the Eastern Freeway.

“This has long been the VTA’s priority road infrastructure project and we are playing an active role in the consultation and planning for the connection, which the current Victorian Government has committed to take to the next election.”

Anderson also reflected on the considerable progress made on the West Gate Tunnel project. The Victorian Government last week released additional plans and environmental modelling for the project, which will provide better access to the Port of Melbourne for heavy vehicles.

“While we support the project, we are unimpressed with plans to permanently curfew trucks from existing roads and force them to use a toll road. We’re working closely with the treasurer and the roads minister on incentives for trucks to use the new freeway, such as toll rebates and reduced tolls at nights, as well as exempting modern and efficient vehicles from the proposed curfews.”

Anderson explained the Port of Melbourne is vital for state and national economies, and that the VTA is encouraging infrastructure planning and investments in the Port to ensure it remains Australia’s biggest.

“There are many issues working against freight volumes increasing within the Port of Melbourne, so it’s important we plan now for short and long term infrastructure needs at the Port to keep it competitive,” he said.

“This includes improving rail access via Port Rail Shuttles, proper road and rail infrastructure planning for freight movements in and out of the new Webb Dock Terminal, and upgrading infrastructure to accommodate high productivity freight vehicles.”

Anderson also reported “some big wins on HPFV infrastructure” in the most recent past, with significant funding earmarked in recent state and federal budgets for upgrades to roads and bridges.

Other hot button issues like safety, community amenity and driver licensing also made Anderson’s agenda.

“The VTA continues to be a major driver for change and improvement around safety in the industry, with numerous creative and practical initiatives in place to inspire safer roads and workplaces.

“I’m pleased that accidents are trending downward, which is a credit to many operators reinforcing the safety message and instilling a safety culture within their businesses every day,” he said.

“Licensing remains a big issue for the VTA and we’re working closely with the government and with VicRoads to improve training and licensing requirements for heavy vehicle drivers,” he added, saying training will continue to play an important role in creating more qualified and safer drivers and industry participants.

He especially pointed to the VTA’s Driver Delivery program, and newly founded Transition to Transport program, which is reportedly designed to introduce new participants to the freight and logistics sector, “and most importantly get them working”.

Both programs are made possible through Victorian Government funding, which covers the cost for employer and employee participants, he said.

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