IA’s National Infrastructure Audit

At the top of the list was a briefing from Infrastructure Australia (IA) on IA’s National Infrastructure Audit. The report makes 81 findings, including the fact that the national land freight task is expected to grow by 80 per cent by 2031, with a large component expected to be handled by road freight vehicles.

The report also finds that institutional arrangements in the transport sector don’t provide sufficient funding to address the current gaps. This includes deficiencies in the current road funding system. ALC agrees and hopes the IA report will help stimulate greater focus by all governments on improving how we identify, prioritise and fund the logistics infrastructure needed to meet our rising freight task.

ALC has been an active participant in this debate, as we acknowledge the potential benefits that could flow from the way we price and invest in logistics infrastructure, particularly when the dollars follow the freight.

Ministers also decided to start making changes to the Chain of Responsibility, including an in-principle decision imposing duties on freight chain participants to ensure the maintenance of vehicles. How these participants will be identified is yet to be determined and further work will be carried out on this reform over the course of 2015.

How this reform will directly impact on supply chain participants is also still unclear. Until the legislation is published, no one will be able to determine what this will mean in practice. ALC hopes that any regulatory impact statement prepared for the legislation actually calculates the real costs to industry imposed by the regulation, as well as, most importantly, how much improvement in safety outcomes will be achieved by imposing the new duties. Any change must be about improving safety outcomes, not for show.

ALC is committed to ensuring the roadworthiness of heavy vehicles used on Australian roads – it’s good for safety, it makes smart business sense and it reflects positively on the entire freight transport and logistics industry. ALC has proposed a series of first practical steps focused on some critical administrative reforms that should be progressed to improve safety and national consistency.

But any change to the regulatory framework governing heavy vehicle road worthiness needs to be well-thought through, undertaken in close consultation with industry and done in such a way that prioritises activities that deliver results.

Another outcome from transport ministers is an endorsement to try to standardise the way scheduled inspections are conducted throughout the country. This is another step along the way towards one national law working in a uniform manner across the country. This step, as well as a mooted standardisation in the way enforcement officers treat defects (a part of the proposed roadworthiness reforms) will assist a ‘one country one rule book’ approach.

Transport ministers also noted policy issues associated with the development of a national heavy vehicle registration scheme and directed the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to progress plans for the implementation of a fully workable scheme by 1 July 2018.

The role of the National Transport Commission was also discussed at the meeting. Over the past few months, an Expert Panel has been speaking to a wide range of industry stakeholders, including ALC, to obtain their views on the performance of the NTC and possible areas for improvement.

ALC has been an active participant in the review, as the National Transport Commission is one of our key stakeholders and a major contributor to the transport reform process. ALC’s submission to the expert panel argues the NTC can and should do more to drive the regulatory reform process forward.  We have proposed a number of changes to the NTC’s governance structures to strengthen its independence, work program and ability to achieve significant reforms. 

The next meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council will be held in November 2015, by which time many of these reforms will be finalised and decided upon. I look forward to keeping you updated.

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