A long running wrangle in Melbourne’s Inner West over truck access should reduce in intensity with the VTA and MTAG able to fix a problem with common sense. The Victorian Transport Association and the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group have sat down together and come up with an agreement to allow accredited trucks more access to the roads around the Port of Melbourne while curtailing access for unaccredited trucks.
The common sense agreement is to be called the Cleaner Freight Initiative and covers the contentious roads in and out of the port: Francis Street, Somerville Road and Moore Street in Yarraville. This area has seen an ongoing spiral of increasingly aggressive campaigning on the part of residents against the trucks using the roads in their area.
The situation arose as the alternative routes to travelling through a residential area were limited by bad transport planning in the city. The traffic levels rose in and out of the port, as the area became a more fashionable suburb, close to the city, but not too expensive. The combination of young families taking their children to school and lines of trucks hauling containers from the port to the city’s industrial western suburbs created a lot of tension and the protests began almost twenty years ago.
The trucking industry does not help its case, with some operators running old, high emission prime movers pulling trailers through the area. We also know some of the drivers working in this part of the industry do not help the cause and indulge in bad behaviour on the road, just because they can.
Rising anger on the part of the residents was further stoked by increasing hyperbole about the health effects of diesel emissions being propagated among the protesters. Unsubstantiated reports from around the world were circulated, citing increases in cancer or other health problems
The situation was further exacerbated by the Victorian Government, with the on-again, off-again saga of the an East/West tunnel or a tunnel connection to the Westgate Bridge directly from the port precinct. Possible solutions appeared and then disappeared
So finally, we have some common sense prevailing and the beginning of a process to get the right balance between the needs of the trucking industry and the concerns of the local population.
The trucking operators are committing to do what they probably are already and should be doing anyway, being responsible citizens. Trucks need to be Euro 5 or better, drivers need to be trained to operate in residential areas. Dangerous goods vehicle will have conspicuity tape fitted. Those participating in the initiative will also fit GPS tracking which will be monitored by a third party.
In return, the accredited operators get an extra hour added to their operating curfew, but more importantly those not participating in the scheme get two hours knocked off the current curfew. In return for being good corporate citizens, the responsible operator gets a productivity gain, while the old shitter pouring out black smoke gets restricted further.
This is a commendable achievement on the part of the VTA, working its way to an agreement with a group who were extremely aggressive and uncompromising when the dispute was at its height.
This should also be an example of how the trucking industry can get around issues which are often not of their making, but which restrict efficient trucking operations. Other jurisdictions around the country need to look to the action on the part of the local authority to offer reduced restrictions to trucking operators who are demonstrably doing the right thing, while also clamping down on the bad boys, who give us all a bad name.