The general public issues with trucking are driving new restrictions, people are looking at the trucking industry and not liking what they see. Peter Anderson, Victorian Transport Association CEO, sees this as an issue caused by a lack of understanding of the industry, its make up and its value to the community.
“The industry isn’t just about fleet owners and large truck owners,” says Anderson. “70 per cent of the trucks on the roads in Victoria are rigids. 95 per cent are owned by one person, he’s the cabinet maker or whatever. There’s a lot of businesses which are one truck operations servicing a variety of customers.
“I want heavy vehicle law driven down to 4.5 tonnes, I also want fatigue law driven down to 4.5 tonnes. We exclude a large proportion of operators and we pick on those who are trying to do the right thing. People with a large truck are trying to make a living out of what they are doing. Under that there’s a whole raft of people, who are doing other things, but use trucks. When Pete the plumber hops into the tray truck, he doesn’t think of himself as a truck driver.”
The community pressure at a local level are at odds with the attitude to trucking being shown by the Andrews Labor Government, recently elected earlier this year. Some initiatives have advanced the cause of the trucking industry.
“I am very pleased with this current government,” says Anderson. “They are going about trying to do what they think is the right thing to do. They are trying to open up high productivity routes, there’s a program to upgrade six major bridges around the port, to be able to take HPVs. They have a program to open up regional areas for high productivity areas.”
However, there are many ongoing issues for Victoria, including the perennial road vs rail debate. The push is for rail to handle more than the current level of 50 per cent of the 4.5 million tonne grain harvest.
“There has been no investment in the infrastructure and then it’s got to stand up to a cost/benefit analysis,” says Anderson. “Rail as a stand alone capital expenditure investment, doesn’t stand up. You don’t get the productivity out of it. You can’t move the value of the freight over longer distances to show we will get our investment back in ten years.
“Rail is a thirty to forty year investment. It’s like our ports, they are also long term investments. This why the inland rail is taking so much time to get up. It started off with a $200-300 million investment, and now ARTC have got their $595 million reinvestment, but we need another couple of billion to really get it moving and show some return to the economy.”
“It’s about getting the industry to grow up and be mature. We need to educate the broader masses the industry is responsible. It is accountable and transparent about how it goes about its day to day.”