Comments attributed to the CEO of the National Transport Commission (NTC), Paul Retter, this week, have him saying, “I’ll be like Darth Vader entering the arena”. This kind of talk is not out of character as earlier this year, at the LBCA Conference in Tamworth, he talked about NHVAS maintenance being a joke which the NTC needs to fix.
This is the kind of talk needed from someone in his position. We have been hedging around these issues for too long and now it’s about time the truth was told and the issues faced head-on. The issue where Retter plans to do his Darth Vader impersonation is on access for higher mass vehicles and the intransigence of the road managers.
Retter can’t do this on his own. As he says, “I’ll need industry’s help to do this because, trust me, this is cultural change 101 when it comes to road infrastructure managers.” What is needed is dropping the petty rivalries. Industry, policy makers and regulators need to demand a sensible approach from the protectors of OUR infrastructure.
This is all about getting the road managers to take on a new philosophy and a risk based approach to access for trucks. In the past, calculations were done, bridges assessed and a formula used to work out mass and dimension rules for a particular road. The arithmetic included an assumption trucks would be way overloaded on some occasions and was also a very conservative estimate of the stress any road would come under.
The world has changed, there is onboard mass monitoring on each axle and systems guaranteeing no overloading on set routes. However, the calculations are still done the same way with a unsustainable margin for error. The way Retter sees it the process needs to work in the opposite direction. Access should be a given unless there is evidence to the contrary. The default setting should be yes, unless there’s a good reason why it should be no.
NatRoad CEO, Chris Melham has come out this week in support, “The NTC is right in calling for a risk-based approach to road asset use and maintenance. Realistic and practical solutions need to be found that deliver to the community the efficiency and productivity benefits that improved access can provide.”
In fact, everyone with an interest in this subject has an incentive to get the way we look at access changed. For trucking it is a matter of much improved productivity, for the NTC this productivity increase is part of their KPIs, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator needs to show it has some rational control of access and state government’s life would be much easier if they put the road managers back in their box.
Can we get this up? Why not? A single rational approach, with trucking demonstrating a united, responsible approach would give the law makers something to work with. We get our house in order and we will leave the road managers without a leg to stand on in their dogged opposition to progress.
Progress has to come, a crisis in infrastructure availability, and consequently the economy, is looming. Let’s get in there and be part of the solution, plus, get vastly increased productivity as part of the bargain. Retter is talking the kind of talk trucking needs to hear, we need to get involved and help him make it happen.