When we are looking at the way business is travelling, the economy’s freight component is a significant factor in just about every major industry on which this economy depends. The importance of the road freight industry to the overall economy is pointed out in the ‘Economic Benefits of Improved Regulation in the Australian Trucking Industry’, a report which had been commissioned by the Australian Trucking Association.
The benefits report comes up with a number of policy suggestions to improve the situation, not only for the rural trucking industry and its agricultural products, but also for the road freight industry as a whole.
The report points to the ongoing review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law with a view to promoting greater national consistency in regulations in several areas including access and accreditation. It suggests that the new law should set a clear limit on the amount of time road managers have to decide on consent for access for trucks, especially the higher productivity vehicles. It also calls for increased staffing for training and education programs targeted at local road managers in order to improve the permit process.
There is a need, identified in the report, for better communication of data about the actual conditions of our roads. Reform of the Intelligent Access Program is also called for, with the ability to use lower-level telematics to provide some lower level of assurance to road managers that operators are not breaking the rules.
These proposed changes included in the Economic Benefits report concentrate solely on issues around access and permitting for higher productivity vehicles. One of the major issues for road transport handling agricultural products may not just be around permitting, but also infrastructure development, which the road transport industry desperately needs to take place with spending levels improved. Better infrastructure should also mean there would be less need for special permits.
This will remain an ongoing issue for the trucking industry, due to the fact that just about everything produced by any industry will have to transported by road over longer distances than any of our direct economic competitors. If we don’t get the transport component within all industry costs as low as possible through high levels of productivity then the entire Australian economy becomes less competitive.
Reports like this can be used by those representing the trucking industry both in the agricultural sector and generally, when lobbying government for improvements in issues like the HVNL and infrastructure spending decisions over the next 20 or 30 years.