Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison seems to reckon it’s road vs rail in the Budget he handed down this week. Increased infrastructure spending was announced as part of Tuesday’s Budget and sees items from the rail freight industry’s wish list getting the green light at the same time as vital spending on new and improved rest areas for trucks get cut back.
The Australian Logistics Council welcomed key freight infrastructure investments contained in the Budget, which will help lay the groundwork for the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.
There is a commitment of $400 million for the duplication of the freight rail line at Port Botany, boosting the use of short-haul rail from the port to intermodal terminals like the new Moorebank development. There is also an investment being made in Queensland’s North Coast Rail Line, which will help assist freight rail efficiency in that state.
At the same time Government has said it only expects to spend $46.4 million of its $60 million budget for truck rest areas and other productivity projects in 2017-18.
Australian Trucking Association CEO, Ben Maguire, said the figures, buried on page 30 of the Treasury portfolio budget statement, showed the Government needed to focus on delivering its budget commitments as well as announcing them.
“The fatigue laws require truck drivers to take regular breaks, but there still aren’t enough truck rest areas in the right places,” said Maguire. “When rest areas are available, they are, all too often, filled up with caravans. Their condition can be shocking.
“Over the weekend, I travelled from Dubbo to Melbourne with well-known drivers’ advocate Rod Hannifey. Rod pointed out the many areas where rest areas could have been built at low cost in conjunction with road upgrades. These opportunities were not taken.
“Rod also pointed out that too many rest areas do not include basic amenities like toilets, lighting, water and shade. Access to toilets, lighting and water are basic rights. Office workplaces, including for the ATA and government agencies, do not compromise on the provision of these basic rights.
“Our roads and rest areas are a driver’s workplace, and we have little chance of resolving fatigue if we do not provide drivers with the basics they need to do their job of moving Australia’s freight to homes and businesses.
“The Government’s own budget documents show that it expects to be $13.6 million behind on rest area spending in 2017-18. The Government needs to focus on delivering its budget commitments and fixing the real problems that Australia’s truck drivers face on the roads whenever they need to take a break.”