Well known for his pull no punches style of criticism directed at the trucking industry, chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), Bryan Nye, has taken the opportunity to have a not so subtle swipe at rail’s ‘arch rival’ while commenting on the results of a recent Auspoll survey of 1500 Australians on the issues of carbon pollution, road congestion, population growth and public transport.
The poll was initiated by a so-called public transport and health coalition comprising seven key bodies including the ARA, Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Local Government Association, Bus Industry Confederation, Cycling Promotion Fund, Heart Foundation and International Public Transport Association.
While there’s no mention of the demographics of poll participants or how they were recruited, the survey results released at a recent Parliament House summit suggested almost 70 percent of Australians want truck movements restricted to non-peak periods and 50 percent of Australians want large trucks banned from cities.
It also found that 87 percent of Australians support improving public transport to reduce traffic congestion and want the Federal Government to be more involved in the strategic funding and planning of our public transport systems.
According to Bryan Nye, the polling confirms that Australians are tired of wasting time in traffic jams and want the Government to act.
“Traffic congestion costs Australians more than $15 billion a year through time wasted in traffic, delays and disruptions to businesses, associated health problems and road accidents,” Nye remarked. “Our congested roads are a result of poor planning. It impedes Australia’s productivity and liveability of our cities. Australians want a solution.
“This is not an argument about road or rail,” he added. “However, if we are to relieve road congestion and make our roads safer, there is only one solution and that is the better use of our rail networks.”
True to form, it didn’t take long for Bryan’s perennial sparring partner, chief executive of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Stuart St Clair, to arc up and fire back a response. He pointed out that replacing large trucks with smaller ones would only increase congestion because more trucks would be needed to deliver the goods Australians use every day.
“A semi-trailer can carry three times more than a smaller, two-axle rigid truck,” St Clair stated. “As a result, while it takes 42 semi-trailer trips to deliver a thousand tonnes of goods, such as the items you see on the shelves of every supermarket, it would take 143 trips for two-axle trucks to deliver the same amount of freight.
“Put simply, there would be more trucks on the road and congestion would be worse.”
Furthermore, St Clair said banning larger trucks from cities would also worsen greenhouse gas emissions and potentially drive up motor vehicle accident rates.
“The 143 two-axle rigid truck trips would create 66 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than using semi-trailers to deliver the same tonnage,” he related, before referring to figures from a 2007 study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre which showed that replacing large trucks with a greater number of smaller trucks would increase the number of road accidents.
“Using larger trucks to deliver goods reduces the number of vehicles on the road. The statistics show there are fewer accidents as a result,” he concluded.