Award Winners, Freight Routes, FIRS and Primary Producers

This week’s headlines from Diesel News include Award Winners, Freight Routes, FIRS and Primary Producers.

This video is of Les Bruzsa’s acceptance speech after receiving the Australian Trucking Association Industry Achievement Award for leading continuous improvement in heavy vehicle regulation and standards.

Also presented at the dinner as part of the 2017 Australian Trucking Association (ATA)/Australian Road Transport Suppliers’ Association (ARTSA) Technical and Maintenance Conference (TMC), Mark Collins from Frasers Livestock Transport received the 2017 Craig Roseneder Award, which recognises technical and maintenance excellence and celebrates the professionalism of men and women who work behind the scenes in the trucking industry’s workshops.

Infrastructure Spending

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has welcomed a series of road infrastructure spending announcements from the Victorian Government that will improve roads on key freight routes in the state’s south west, providing a productivity dividend for the community and transport operators in the area.

Roads minister Luke Donnellan confirmed reconstruction works on stage two of the Portland Ring Road and roads in the Green Trial would soon begin, and that a deteriorated section of the Princes Highway at Heywood would be rebuilt.

This followed an announcement that roads surrounding the Henty Employment Precinct would be upgraded to accommodate high productivity freight vehicles.

FIRS to End

The government intends to close FIRS to new entrants from 1 July 2018 and fully close the scheme by 30 June 2019. The proposal is outlined in a consultation paper released by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

FIRS commenced in 1987 and applied only to vehicles weighing more than 4.5 tonnes that are solely involved in interstate trade or commerce. FIRS vehicles are not subject to state-based stamp duty tax for new vehicle purchases. The number of FIRS vehicles peaked in in 2007-08 at 22,000 and has since declined to around 14,000 (or 1.6 per cent of the total fleet) with the decline predicted to continue.

Licensing Out of Step

Heavy vehicle driver licence training requirements are vastly out of step with requirements for drivers of other modes of transport, and must change to improve safety, reduce risk and improve standards in the transport industry, reckons VTA CEO, Peter Anderson, speaking at the TMC.

“Heavy vehicle drivers must be trained and capable of controlling the vehicle in all conditions, at all times, and to make the right decisions that will not increase the chance of risk or accident,” said Anderson. “Regrettably, the industry does not have a good record in training drivers, partially because there is very little funding support for it. In fact, there is very little training for drivers at all except for on the job experience.

“For example, we have an issue with the licensing of heavy vehicle drivers. Did you know that it takes 120 hours of instruction before you can sit for a car licence, 20 hours before you can sit a motorcycle licence and even 20 hours of instruction before you can be tested to fly a plane solo?

“However, there are no pre-set hours of on-road instruction before you can sit for a heavy vehicle licence test. What it does take, is just five hours of on-site training, the ability to reverse the vehicle 50 meters in a straight line and $1,000. And you do not even have to be able to read English.”

Primary Producer Problems

The Livestock, Bulk and Rural Carriers Association (LBRCA) of New South Wales is expressing concern about the alleged use of NSW Primary Producer concessions on vehicles which are used for purposes other than those for which the concessions are intended.

“The issue appears to be more prevalent during the annual grain harvest where commercially operated trucks exploiting the primary producer concession enter the market and compete against professional rural carriers who do not have this advantage,” said Lynley Miners, LBRCA President. “Unfortunately, one unintended consequence is that rural carriers who fully pay their way under the current road-funding scheme suffer a cost disadvantage compared to those misusing the concession. It might seem a small price difference to those not involved in the industry, but in a competitive marketplace this illegitimate cost advantage has a huge impact.”

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