In an effort to appeal to transport workers, an Albanese-led Labor government has announced it will deliver new and upgraded rest areas for Australia’s truck drivers.
Recognising truck drivers travel day and night to keep Australia moving, a Labor federal government would support the productivity and safety of this workforce, who is too often, despite its critical role in the national economy, forced to put up with a serious lack of suitable rest areas.
According to the ALP statement, quality rest is essential for safe trucking, but in order to get quality rest, quality rest areas were sorely needed.
As part of its plan to improve rest areas for commercial vehicle drivers, Labor has committed to investing $80 million to develop what it calls new, top class rest areas across the country.
Specific projects, according to Labor, will be selected in close consultation with the men and women who have their hands on the steering wheel day in and day out.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Catherine King said providing quality rest areas was the least her party, should it take office, could do to support an essential workforce that travels across the continent, day in, day out.
“I have nothing but total respect for Australia’s truck drivers,” she said.
“A well-rested truck driver is a safe truck driver,” said King.
Senator Glenn Sterle, Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety, said it was an announcement that would be met with excitement by most truck drivers in Australia.
“I have been in and around the road transport industry for more than 40 years and this is the first time that I have seen a federal commitment like this that will go directly to improving the safety and productivity of our truckies,” he said.
“It is imperative that our truck drivers have quality rest. The only way they can do that is if they have access to and can rely on fit for purpose rest areas where they need them,” he said.
“As the Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety, I have spoken with hundreds of truck drivers as well as road safety stakeholders, academics, transport associations, the TWU and employers about this important issue and I look forward to working with them to making this commitment a reality.”
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark agreed with the industry view that existing funding programs for rest areas were currently “woefully insufficient”.
“The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program is one of the Australian Government’s main programs for funding rest areas and an industry analysis shows it is running at an annual spend of about only $5.5 million,” said Clark.
“The whole national network needs to be thoroughly audited,” he continued.
“You can’t have a world class road freight system unless you have strategically placed, world class rest areas.”
Clark said any commitment over and above current funding was welcome.
“It’s NatRoad’s strong view that Federal road grants to the states and territories need to be tied to upgrading and building truck rest areas,” he said.
“All current and proposed rest areas should all be graded in accordance with the 2019 Austroads’ Guidelines for the Provision of Heavy Vehicle Rest Areas Facilities and a plan put in place by governments for upgrading amenities and facilities.”