Last week, Gadens had the pleasure of hosting a business breakfast in association with Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) where industry leaders and the Victorian Minister for Roads and Ports, Luke Donnellan MP, discussed the urgent need for greater access to Victoria’s road network for High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs) at higher mass limits.

Major container transport companies, including Qube Logistics, Rocke Bros Transport, Toll Intermodal,  Arrow Transport & Logistics, and Riordan Grain Services, as well as major agricultural producers and exporters GrainCorp, Fonterra and Ridley AgriProducts, held an open and frank discussion with the Minister on the need for a clear plan to deliver the next productivity gains for importers and exporters in Victoria.

Russell Lyons, General Manager Corporate Development, Ridley AgriProducts, explained to the Minister, “It is difficult to ask Boards to make investment decisions on new infrastructure, plant and equipment that boosts manufacturing and agri-production without a clear plan on issues such as Port access and future transport productivity.”

All participants stressed the need to get higher mass on HPFVs on Victoria’s freight network.

Michael Rocke, Director Rocke Bros. Transport, explained “For our business, an increase in allowable mass on the Geelong Road carrying export grain containers would remove approximately 7000 truck trips a year.  The productivity, safety and environmental gains across the whole industry on that road alone would be staggering.”

Managing Director of Qube Logistics, Paul Digney, warned that rising costs will impact negatively on containerised trade through the Port of Melbourne.  Other States such as Queensland and NSW are now pulling ahead of Victoria in transport productivity achievements, and we need to act decisively to address this lag.

In response, the Minister noted the overwhelming support of the Container Transport industry to work collaboratively with the Government and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to address impediments to delivering higher mass approvals.  It was acknowledged that the use of new technology and on-board telematics can assist in addressing concerns about the impact HPFVs on road infrastructure, and that the safety features of modern HPFVs are superior to existing heavy vehicles.

The Minister explained that the May 2015 State Budget will have a major focus on improving infrastructure in Victoria that will have positive outcomes for importer and exporters and their transport providers.  This includes a bridge strengthening program, particularly on strategic regional freight routes.

CTAA is working with companies to participate in the Victorian Government’s Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Road Freight Trials with a clear aim of demonstrating the use of on-board mass management telematics in Victoria to provide regulatory certainty on HPFV mass limits.

Andrew Hudson, Partner, Gadens, supported the push by industry to increase productivity through the Port of Melbourne.

“It is critical we get all the productivity improvements we can in the road, rail and port network to take advantage of new international Free Trade Agreements, particularly for heavy commodities moved in containers such as agriproducts.” he said.

At the invitation of the Minister, a small group of CTAA alliance companies will be meeting with VicRoads to progress the agenda with a view to achieving positive results within a short timeframe.