Austroads IGNORES expert panel findings

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The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has criticised Austroads’ research into heavy vehicle dimensions, saying that the government agency has ignored findings of an expert panel inquiry into national freight and supply chain priorities.

“Last year the expert panel inquiry into national freight and supply chain priorities recommended better supply chain integration, including common standards such as the width of refrigerated trailers, that should align with major international partners,” ATA Chair Geoff Crouch said.

“However, current research work underway by government research body Austroads is exploring moving to an overall permissible width of 2.55 metres, ignoring the international benchmark of 2.6 metres, especially for refrigerated truck trailers.

“The ATA welcomes the Austroads project’s stated commitment to international harmonisation and exploring greater width, but productivity benefits and supply chain integration do not happen because you write it in a project brief. You’ve actually got to get the policy settings right.

“An increase in allowable width to 2.6 metres would enable refrigerated trucks to utilise thicker insulated walls without loss of payload. In 38 degrees outside temperatures, these thicker walls would reduce heat gain by 36 per cent and deliver a fuel saving of 2,500 litres per typical refrigerated vehicle per year.

“Austroads reference the expert panel finding on the need for international harmonisation on the width of refrigerated truck trailers in their own project brief, but have then proceeded to rule it out of scope.

“They claimed the benefits of harmonising for refrigerated trailers to justify the project, and then refuse to look at what is actually needed to achieve those benefits.”

Mr Crouch believes that the project’s “limited scope” would limit the findings.

“The ability of this project to contribute to our understanding of the issues involved in harmonising vehicle dimensions with major international partners will at best be limited,” he said.

“This is a research project, not a policy decision, which makes it the best time to consider the issues and evidence for actually aligning with major international partners.

“The expert panel inquiry drew on 127 submissions and meetings with over 200 individuals, 28 peak bodies and 90 businesses.

“Austroads and its government members should actually take note of the outcomes of this consultative process, which was vastly more rigorous than the process undertaken for determining the scope of this limited research project.

“It would be disappointing if the commitment of governments to delivering a freight strategy, improving productivity and supply chain integration was to fall at the first hurdle of just researching what was actually recommended by the expert panel inquiry,” Mr Crouch said.

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