Rattle and Hum

If such an industry as Big Suspension were said to exist the place to go find it would be in California where, for the sake of the argument, merchants who specialise in fixing shock absorbers and struts should, if they don’t already, make a killing.

The road network in the Golden State has been decaying for decades.

In a car you don’t ride so much as jounce over the pothole strewn road base and rutted cement.

The concrete surfaced freeways and major transit routes have been in varying states of deterioration every time I’ve visited over the years, no matter who is in government.

Managed decline here is a bipartisan project.

It’s amazing anyone can be understood in a movie car chase for all the loud rattling.

The only places that these road conditions are not the default is apparently Beverly Hills and on the 405 — the world’s longest parking lot in flux.

Big Suspension might also be headed for an economic boom in Australia, to judge by the current state of things, where our own crumbling arterials seem to go unnoticed by government, periodically, until there is an election scheduled.

That’s when most road works begin in earnest.

Not all neglect, to be fair, is from managed decline.

Drastic increases in construction, building and freight movements, have led to rapid deteriorations to the asphalt that holds together some 800,000 kilometres of road network nationally, irrespective of state or federal jurisdiction.

Even so, poor roads hurt road safety and national productivity.

Export competitiveness also suffers. Rural roads account for 65 per cent of the national road toll. Maintenance spending on our roads has fallen way behind its current needs according to the Australian Rural Road Group (ARRG).

In local roads alone, detailed economic analysis suggests an annual national funding gap of $2.8 billion per year has been created.

That’s the annual amount of funds missing, compared to the real amount required to keep local roads maintained to a benchmark condition.

Poor weatherproofing of key access roads means that floods and even heavy rain episodes can isolate remote communities and their commodity exports for weeks on end.

These lessons, regardless of whether they are learned, have been taught again this year in Northern NSW, Central Australia and outback Western Australia.

The ARRG, a body that represents rural local governments nationwide producing over $100 million in agricultural product annually, insists the solution isn’t merely having more government money thrown at the problem but rather structural reform.

Food security is, naturally, a vital issue for them. As it should be for the rest of us.

A 2006 ALTA study submitted to the Productivity Commission revealed that a ten per cent reduction in truck weights that resulted from the poor condition of roads was having the effect of increasing the final price of export meat products in NSW by 12 per cent.

“Rural and remote areas can be more vulnerable to the risks of natural hazards, and greater investment may be required to protect or maintain these assets,” reported Infrastructure Australian in its Australian Audit for 2019.

Buried in the same report was data it cited to November 2018, confirming that over 85 per cent of Australian goods exported were rural goods or mining products.

High transport costs, driven by large distances, poor supply chain efficiency, and limited access for heavy vehicles on some regional routes due to weight restrictions and ageing bridges is no longer the inexorable stumbling block it once was through targeted lobbying that has addressed many of these vulnerabilities.

Advanced transport technology across which assets and infrastructure engage is now abundant.

Bodies like ITS supposedly exist to shape the future of national networks by supporting the delivery of safer, more efficient, sustainable transport solutions.

That’s why Los Angeles looms as an interesting choice for its 2022 World Congress.

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