The Australian Government should prioritise safety and road access as it rolls out the $24.5 billion in new infrastructure spending announced in the budget, the Chair of the Australian Trucking Association, Geoff Crouch, said this evening.

“The Government’s $24.5 billion infrastructure boost is great news for all Australians. It will build safer roads and deliver greater efficiencies through our supply chains,” Mr Crouch said.

“Whether it’s spending on road or rail, in urban or regional Australia, the projects will involve an enormous increase in construction truck traffic. These truck movements all need to happen safely.

“The Government announced this evening that businesses tendering for Commonwealth contracts of more than $4 million will be required to show they have a satisfactory tax record.

“The Government needs to go further. Businesses that work on Commonwealth funded projects should not just be required to have satisfactory tax records: they should be required to have good safety records and systems as well.

“Through our TruckSafe program, the ATA is working with the National Road Safety Partnership Program, the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority and others to develop accreditation standards for construction truck operators. These include side under-run protection, alert systems and mirrors to cover the front, rear and side blind spots of trucks, and better driver training.

“The Australian Government should mandate these standards for any major infrastructure project that it helps fund,” he said.

Mr Crouch said the Government should make road access for high productivity and oversize/overmass (OSOM) vehicles a key condition of its road funding to the states and local government, including under its new Roads of Strategic Importance (RoSI) initiative.

“Trucking operators that move oversize/overmass freight are in crisis because of the long delays involved in getting permits,” he said.

“It can take more than 80 days to get a permit to transport OSOM steel products on the Transurban tollways in Melbourne.

“A company seeking to move OSOM mining equipment from the Pilbara to Weipa waited more than 100 days for a permit to move the equipment by road through Queensland. In the end, the company transported the equipment by road to Darwin and put it on a barge.

“In total, trucking operators spend 4.5 million days per year waiting for approvals to move freight.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is responsible for issuing these permits in the eastern states and South Australia, but it faces the same problem as our members. It has to wait endlessly for local authorities and other road managers to sign off on the permits. They can take as long as they want and there are no external appeals against their decisions.

“The Australian Government needs to attach conditions on its infrastructure funding to require local councils and the states to get their act together and issue permits in a timely way.

“The industry can’t wait any longer for this crisis to be fixed. The ATA’s members have raised it with us as a key concern; we have listened to their views; the Government needs to act,” he said.

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