Looking at the world from the point of view of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association’s (ALRTA) Executive Director, Mathew Munro, his concerns for the Association’s members can be divided into two parts. On the one hand, members have to deal with the same issues confronting the entire trucking industry while, on the other, there are specific issues affecting rural carriers in particular.
“The big area of change is in charging and infrastructure,” says Munro. “Whether it’s mass/distance/location charging or not, but it will be charging based on some form of technology. Mass is inherently difficult, but distance and location are the two easier elements. It’s a matter of finding a technology platform you can agree on.
“We need to make sure there are some benefits for operators in there. We don’t want them doubling up on red tape. Government might want to make it simple, but simple for them might mean complex for the operator. We need to be part of the process to ensure it will drive some efficiencies for the operator.”
The issue of charges is bound to be an ongoing issue in the relationship between trucking and government. Truck operators are being overcharged at the moment. The system is meant to seek cost recovery, but at any time ministers can just overrule that.
“They are looking a various cost models and I have some concerns about what that may mean,” says Munro. “There are some models out there, in rail for instance, which are driving profit return. We are trying to operate in cost recovery goals and the way you calculate charges can be very different. We need to be making sure the charging system won’t lead to a perverse outcome where those using the worst type of roads are actually paying the most for them.”
Chain of responsibility hasn’t been effective in the rural sector at all and Munro hopes the changes to the rules that will come in next year may make a difference. A lot of its future effectiveness will depend on whether the authorities are willing to delve into the rural sector.
“EBS is upon us now,” says Munro. “For ABS there was little support for it within our rural industry, with EBS there is more debate about it. There are more benefits and some operators are embracing it. Others are having trouble with the technology.”
Another aspect of the ALRTA program this year comes under the title of ‘Low Volume Access’. This is a concept aiming to get higher productivity trucks closer to the farm gate. Operators need to be able to get B-doubles to the farm gate and get them to the port.
WA is trying an innovative solution. In the Harvest Management Scheme, larger vehicles – decided through a self-assessment system dependent on considerations like traffic flows and line of sight – can take the most direct route from the farm to the destination, but at lower speeds, with flagged vehicles and after seeking assessment of any bridges.
The ALRTA will obtain data from the WA scheme, pull it all together and begin talking to governments in the eastern states to see if they could consider making a move down this track.