The Darwin TIC meeting of Transport Ministers from State and Federal Government has given the go ahead for some reform in a number of important areas for the trucking industry. The news is both good and not so good, depending on your point of view and where you sit in the overall freight transport picture.
The Transport and Infrastructure Council meets every six months, the ministers were joined by observers from the Australian Trucking Association, Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, Australian Logistics Council and representatives from the rail and ports industry.
One of the real positives at the meeting was the decision to endorse proposed improvements to the Performance Based Standards scheme. Precise detail is not yet available but the National Transport Commission CEO, Paul Retter has been dropping substantial hints in the last couple of months about what is in the proposals.
We can expect to see a bit more common sense in the whole PBS process with some combinations becoming a lot easier to get on the road in the scheme. There are some standard combinations, like those in truck and four, five or six axle dog set-ups, shorter B-double and quad axle semi which look likely to be included in a streamlined process, if the design meets specific blue print specifications.
There’s also good news for higher trailers in a number of sectors with amendments in the Heavy Vehicle National Law which will raise the height limit to 4.6 metres for specific as-of-right vehicles.
Progress was also made on initiatives around improving safety outcomes for trucks. This includes the endorsement of the National Road Safety Action Plan.
According to the communiqué from the meeting, “The Action Plan includes nine priority actions which target regional and remote road safety through infrastructure improvements, new technologies and speed reviews, improving vehicle safety standards, increasing roadside drug testing and improving heavy vehicle safety. Implementation of the Action Plan will be monitored and a comprehensive annual report on progress will be prepared for endorsement by the Council.”
There is some progress being reported on the road to a national heavy vehicle accreditation regime, but no hard and fast statement on same.
There was a bit more light on the other subject appearing over the horizon for the trucking industry, road pricing reform. The TIC is looking for data to inform the introduction of ‘independent price regulation of heavy vehicle charges’ taking some of the decision away from federal and state authorities.
More to the point, the ministers are asking to see what a prototype model of a future cost base for heavy vehicle charging will look like. This will see the spectre of mass/distance/location charging of trucks rearing its head again. This is a prospect which could please some operators, on low kms and country roads, but worry those operators doing big kms on major highways every week.