Federal Government announces national freight plan

The Federal Government has announced the details of its plan to improve the efficiency of freight transport networks throughout Australia.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the government commissioned a industry-led Inquiry into National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities in March 2017, to help better position Australia to meet its future freight productivity challenges.

“Freight volumes are expected to double and the nature of the freight task is changing, yet there is more to do to continue to grow freight productivity,” McCormack said.

“That’s why the Budget has a rolling $100 billion infrastructure plan—something I call the ‘age of infrastructure’.”

McCormack said a 20-year vision is needed for coordinating investment, regulation, and planning across all modes—road, rail, air and maritime—to drive real improvements to Australia’s freight productivity.

“We are improving our road freight network through a number of investments under the Government’s $100 billion infrastructure plan, such as the $4.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.”

McCormack confirmed a budget commitment of $8.5 million would be used to settle the design of a National Freight Data Hub, which will help business and governments plan, and make better operational and investment decisions.

“Industry has called for better freight data and we are delivering. We know better data makes better decisions and that means jobs and opportunities can flow, especially in the regions,” McCormack said.

The iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre report, published last week, analyses the freight data needs of industry and government and suggests how improving ways of collecting relevant data could improve freight sector planning and operations.

Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport Scott Buchholz said Delivering on Freight, also published last week, showcases the federal government’s significant and action-oriented commitments.

“Our commitment to the National Action Plan includes investing to remove pinch points in key freight corridors, improving heavy vehicle access to local roads and improving the availability and ways we can share freight data,” Buchholz said.

Buchholz also said the government will contribute $8 million for the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to streamline the approval process for road access by heavy vehicles.

“The investment complements the federal government’s agreement with State and Territory Ministers to implement 12 recommendations from the review of Oversize Overmass vehicle access arrangements, making it easier to do business without compromising safety,” Buchholz said.

Buchholz said the NHVR is seeking agreement from councils and road managers on the new draft National Class 1 Agricultural Vehicle and Combination Notice, which will harmonise state-based notices into a single national notice and update standards.

“This is just another sensible reform to make life easier for farmers, enabling them to move the majority of their equipment between farms and ensuring they can do business more efficiently.”

In May 2018, the COAG Infrastructure and Transport Ministerial Council committed to developing a 20-year National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy which will form the basis of an integrated approach to improving the connectivity of all freight modes and supply chains.

According to McCormack, implementation of the strategy by industry and all three tiers of government from 2019 will enhance the competitiveness of all Australia’s regions in domestic and global markets and help us achieve truly liveable, efficient and affordable cities and regional centres.