VIC Govt withdraws from proposed Cleaner Freight Initiative

The Cleaner Freight Initiative, created to lessen the impact of high emission commercial vehicles around the Port of Melbourne, has been abandoned by the Victorian State Government.

In a statement issued this week the Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) confirmed that it had regrettably withdrawn from the initiative developed in association with the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) over an 18 month period to provide a proposed Environmental Freight Zone and two-tiered curfews designed to incentivise cleaner trucks on five key freight routes in the City of Maribyrnong.

This also included a speed reduction.

Among the other initiatives proposed in the scheme were driver training in community appreciation; conspicuity tape to improve visibility of dangerous goods vehicles; road works to improve safety at a number of intersections; and identification of danger hot spots across the City of Maribyrnong.

According to MTAG, the omission of previously agreed upon curfews for Williamstown Rd and Buckley St during the Government's announcement of the Smart Freight Partnership Inner West (SFPIW) in July was cause for concern.

With no written document provided, MTAG was left uncertain as to the final makeup of the package and the timeline for implementation it said in a statement online.
A series of negotiations regarding implementation of the SFPIW brought together the VTA, Freight Victoria, VicRoads and Maribyrnong Council and representatives of Jaala Pulford and Minister Melissa Horne.

At a final meeting MTAG said it had been left with the impression the SFPIW would go ahead.

“We were promised a quick resolution, assured that it would get sorted out,” the group said. 

“Media interviews came and went and we focused on the positive side of things. The 50km/h speed limits were introduced and we were assured that curfews were not off the table, VicRoads just needed a bit more time to undertake traffic modelling. 

“This was a bit hard to swallow knowing that VicRoads had had this initiative on their desks for 18 months, nevertheless we waited.  And waited.”

Senior executives from Minister Pulford’s office according to MTAG at first provided updates but soon communication dropped off and requests for meetings were met with silence.

The proposed curfews were critical to the SFPIW MTAG said.

“Without curfews on all five streets, plans to incentivise cleaner trucks will not only fail, but will actually make the situation worse for thousands of residents,” the group said. 

“Not only would the trucks concentrate on those two streets, having a detrimental impact on those residents, there would also be an increased risk of trucks crashing into the Napier St Bridge.”

MTAG said was not an easy decision to pull out but could not attach its name to what it described as a “flawed plan”. 

“We regret this lost opportunity to work with the freight industry and Government to implement an Australia first initiative and the most comprehensive plan ever put on the table to deal with the truck issue in the City of Maribyrnong,” the statement said.

“We are proud of the initiative we put to Government and we thank the VTA, in particular CEO Peter Anderson, for the many hours spent with us in respectful negotiations.”

Meanwhile MTAG understands the Millers and Williamstown Red Corner Study remained in limbo after the Government had failed to provide an adequate response to the increasing number of trucks on both streets and complaints from residents and truck drivers as to the inadequate warning system on the Napier St Bridge, the site of a series of dangerous collisions.

The Age has reported that the VTA and the Maribyrnong Truck Action group were informed by the State Government that they would withdraw support for the initiative prior to Christmas.

Dubbed the Cleaner Freight Initiative, it would have helped reduce the 8 million trucks that enter the inner west of Melbourne every year and encouraged transport businesses to update their fleets with the latest low emissions engine technology by legislating the Euro 5 rating as a benchmark for certain curfews.

VTA CEO Peter Anderson said he was disappointed the Cleaner Freight Initiative was no longer going to proceed and that the people of the Inner West and transport businesses that use the local infrastructure would not be able to share the benefits of a unique collaboration between residents and industry.

“Regrettably, Victoria’s transport bureaucracy was resistant to and unable to support the many great initiatives that would have incentivised industry investment, improved community amenity and better managed the thousands of heavy vehicle movements that are necessary daily for the Port of Melbourne to function more productively,” he said.

“The movement of heavy vehicles in this area will continue to increase and the community issues will remain unchanged,” Anderson said.

“The VTA will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure heavy vehicle access to the Port of Melbourne is maintained, and that operators working in the area are mindful of safety and amenity concerns of residents.”

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