Prime Mover Magazine


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Kirk Coningham

NSW Government must ramp up its safety commitment

November 2019

It was a pleasure to spend two days in mid-September with some of the heavy vehicle sector’s most passionate and effective safety advocates at the 2019 ALC & ATA Supply Chain Safety Summit.

Over the course of two days in Sydney, the Summit set out a number of priority actions for governments, industry and the community to collaboratively pursue over the next year, in order to deliver stronger safety outcomes across the supply chain.

There was a particular focus on finding ways to reform some of the bureaucratic practices that are increasingly being used to define safety management.

Some within the industry are finding safety documentation increasingly complex and time-consuming to complete.

The focus needs to return to identifying and managing actual risks, rather than completing paperwork.

Attendees were advised by leading practitioners that there is little research indicating that forms and checklists are greatly effective in addressing safety risks. We need to transition from measuring activity to measuring outcomes.

Of course, enhanced safety is not simply about processes and conversations within organisations.

It equally requires a commitment to investing physical freight transport infrastructure that keeps those who drive heavy vehicles – and all road users – safe.

The provision of more dedicated heavy vehicle rest areas along key road freight routes is one example of the sort of practical investments that governments should be making.

The Summit was also used to highlight an especially egregious example of poor planning and decision-making in Sydney that, unless rectified, will have major ramifications for this industry and for road users and local residents across parts of Sydney’s inner south.

The Sydney Gateway project is a major piece of new road infrastructure that is intended to alleviate road congestion and improve safety around the Port Botany-Sydney Airport precinct.

When Gateway was first proposed several years ago, it included access ramps designed to service the Cooks River Intermodal Terminal – which is Australia’s largest empty container park and a significant rail intermodal freight hub.

At the time, industry participants agreed this was a sensible approach, given that ramps at Canal Road would remove at least 1,600 truck movements a day from local roads.

This would improve road safety, reduce congestion and enhance community amenity around Mascot, where the residential population has grown exponentially over recent years due to high-density apartment developments.
Regrettably, however, a decision was subsequently taken within the NSW Government to remove these ramps from the Gateway design, in an effort to control project costs.

ALC believes this is short-sighted – and significantly diminishes the potential freight benefits of the Gateway project by increasing congestion on local roads, as heavy vehicles attempting to service NSW’s key international container port are forced to continue using roads around suburban Mascot and Botany that are increasingly home to high-density residential apartment developments.

Unless the NSW Government alters its plans, these residents will witness ever-increasing numbers of trucks rolling through their streets, with the Port Botany freight task projected to almost double by 2036.

If Sydney Gateway is to fully deliver its intended benefits of reducing road congestion in and around Port Botany and Sydney Airport, it is essential that the heavy vehicle access ramps at Canal Road be reinstated to the design prior to the commencement of construction.

ALC is pleased to have been supported in this call by a number of other industry bodies, including the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA), Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) and Shipping Australia Limited (SAL).

It is important that the NSW Government now works cooperatively and expeditiously with industry to resolve this issue.

This isn’t just an important issue for NSW. Port Botany also plays a critical role in national supply chain performance.

Moreover, if one jurisdiction feels able to ignore the freight industry’s needs in the design and construction of major infrastructure projects, the risk is others will start to feel similarly emboldened.

Our industry cannot afford that risk.

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