The road transport industry has become one of the most important contributors to Australia’s ongoing economic growth, as in many cases road is the only mode possible for freight within cities due to geographic challenges and a limited rail network.
According to a report by the Australian Logistics Council, the country has experienced an average rate of economic growth of 3.3% a year for the past decade; overall road tonnages moved domestically has risen at the rate of 4% a year, whilst interstate road freight has increased even faster at 5%.
Should these rates continue, tonnes moved by road in Australia would increase by 80% in 15 years, while interstate road freight would more than double.
According to Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL) Director and Chief Operating Officer Phil Taylor, the figures confirm the importance of the road transport industry in Australia, and the challenges which lie ahead.
“The report shows that road transport carried 2,148 million tonnes in 2004-2005, which was 75% of the 2,866 million tonnes of domestic freight carried in Australia as a whole,” Taylor said.
“Such figures highlight the importance of the trucking industry, particularly for shorter journeys where rail is not an option – to deliver goods to business’ front doors, Australia is reliant on trucks due to the vast metropolitan areas surrounding our cities.”
According to Taylor, heavy reliance on road freight not only requires thorough and well-planned road networks for the smooth flow of traffic and efficient transportation of goods, but also ancillary infrastructure such as rest facilities and areas where trucks can stop to check and adjust loads.
“Until now, fatigue management in the trucking industry has been hampered by a complex set of laws, which vary from state to state,” Taylor said.
“While this is being partially addressed later this year with the rollout of new fatigue management legislation in all states apart from Western Australia and the ACT, adequate infrastructure also has its part to play in reducing fatigue, an important factor given the predicted growth of the country’s freight task.
“Due to Australia’s vast expanses, there are parts of the continent where there are stretches of up to 500 km of travel between a shower, meal break or facilities for truck drivers, while those involved in urban delivery within our major cities also suffer from lack of adequate rest areas.”
According to Taylor, it is one thing to set maximum driving hours and ask drivers to comply with these requirements, but for the full effect of legislation to take place, adequate rest areas are a necessity.
“Currently, there is a severe shortage of truck stops across the country and the lack of these facilities will make it more difficult for operators and drivers to comply with new fatigue regulations,” he said.
“For the legislation to work at its best, drivers should be provided with the facilities to gain the maximum benefit from their rests, rather than just pulling the truck up on the side of a highway or road somewhere to stop for the required period.
“While some recognition should be given to Government for its efforts in making our roads safer with these proposed fatigue management measures, increasing the number and quality of rest areas and truck stops should not be overlooked in helping to ensure that drivers are properly rested.”