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Budget misses the mark on fatigue, says industry group

May 10, 2018

While some sections of the heavy vehicle transport supply chain are happy with the outcomes of the 2017-2018 Federal Budget, not everyone is pleased.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has welcomed the budgeted key freight infrastructure investments, which it says will help lay the groundwork for the smooth implementation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

“ALC is particularly pleased by the commitment of $400 million for the duplication of the freight rail line at Port Botany, as called for in ALC’s 2018-19 Commonwealth Budget Submission,” said ALC Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff.

But the Australian Trucking Association CEO Ben Maguire says the Federal Government isn’t doing enough to help curb the dangers of heavy vehicle driver fatigue and improving driver conditions on the road by spending only $46.4 million of its $60 million budget for truck rest areas and other productivity projects in 2017-18.

Fatigue is one of the four pillars of the chain of responsibility (CoR), the other three being speed, mass/dimensions and load restraint.

Mr Maguire said the figures, “buried on page 30 of the Treasury portfolio budget statement”, showed the Government needed to focus on delivering its budget commitments as well as announcing them.

“The fatigue laws require truck drivers to take regular breaks, but there still aren’t enough truck rest areas in the right places,” Mr Maguire said.

“When rest areas are available, they are, all too often, filled up with caravans. Their condition can be shocking.”

Mr Maguire said he has been shown many spots on our highways where rest areas could have been built at low cost in conjunction with road upgrades but these opportunities are going begging.

He also noted that “too many rest areas do not include basic amenities like toilets, lighting, water and shade. Access to toilets, lighting and water are basic rights. Office workplaces, including for the ATA and government agencies, do not compromise on the provision of these basic rights.”

He said roads and rest areas were a driver’s workplace. “We have little chance of resolving fatigue if we do not provide drivers with the basics they need to do their job of moving Australia’s freight,” he stated, adding that the budget documents show that the government expects to be $13.6 million behind on rest area spending in 2017-18.

On a positive note …

In reference to the government spending $400 million on the duplication of the freight rail line at Port Botany, the ALC’s Michael Kilgariff said boosting the use of short-haul rail from ports to intermodal terminals was essential to enhancing supply chain efficiency and safety.

He also welcomed the investment being made in Queensland’s North Coast Rail Line, which he said would help assist freight rail efficiency in that state.

Mr Kilgariff praised the government’s expansion of the Urban Congestion Fund to tackle urban road congestion across all capital cities, as are the investments to upgrade key freight routes thorough the $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.”

“Urban road congestion is not just an irritation for commuters in Australia’s major cities, but it has an enormous impact on the efficiency and cost of road freight movement.”

“However, ALC regrets that the Government has not taken the opportunity to establish a dedicated Freight Strategy and Planning Division within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. Such a body is essential to ensure that the movement of freight is effectively monitored, analysed and prioritised in policy-making,” Mr Kilgariff said.

“ALC also notes the Budget contains $5 million over four years to assist in the implementation of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. This is a positive step, which will hopefully promote close government engagement with industry participants throughout the implementation phase of the Strategy,” he said.

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