NatRoad calls for sweeping waterfront reforms

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Efficiency at our ports must be boosted and road freight access improved for Australia to recover from the pandemic and compete with the rest of the world, the National Road Transport Association has told the Productivity Commission.

In a submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Maritime Logistics, NatRoad has called for a range of waterfront reforms.

It says long waiting times at port facilities to load and unload containers and cargo are placing massive strain on heavy vehicle operators – particularly owner operators.

“These are eroding safety, contributing to driver shortages and compounding the impacts of the pandemic,” said CEO Warren Clark.

“Fees that punish truck drivers for events like delayed or absent pickups are grossly unfair and should be abolished.

“NatRoad also wants a cap applied to the steep rises in landside port charges that its members have experienced over the last five years.”

NatRoad has repeated its criticism of skyrocketing stevedore charges, first made a year ago.

“There is no justification for the 325% rise in the average fee for unloading an import container off a ship in Eastern Seaboard ports from mid-2017 to March 2021,” Mr Clark said.

NatRoad has joined a chorus of criticism of Inefficient, anti-competitive and unethical provisions in Enterprise Agreements governing waterfront industrial relations.

Mr Clark said these have a knock-on effect that is felt by not only the road transport sector but the national economy.

“It’s time to open the port gates to more High Productivity Vehicles (HPVs),” Mr Clark said.

“Some stevedores are actively discouraging their use by charging greater fees for deliveries by ‘long vehicles.’

“NatRoad does not agree with the Productivity Commission that these fees reflect the true cost of accommodating HPVs.”

The association says road access to ports by heavy vehicles needs to be dramatically overhauled.

“A-doubles and other combinations need to be given priority, around-the-clock access on key freight routes,” Mr Clark said.

“The current complex system of permits for High Productivity Vehicles needs to be reviewed and streamlined. There are too many permits and there is too much red tape.”