Wagga Wagga Regional Forum Recap

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The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) held its first Regional Forum for 2021 in Wagga Wagga last night, 21 April 2021. Speakers included Dr Joe McGirr, local State MP for Wagga Wagga; Susie Harwood, Executive Director, Freight, at Transport for NSW; Justin Halim, Director at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; Richard Calver, lawyer and NatRoad in-house adviser; and Paul Wiffrie, Dealer Development Manager PACCAR Australia. The event was attended by over 30 local road freight operators who had the opportunity to give feedback and discuss issues affecting the industry.

In his opening remarks, Dr Joe emphasised two issues – for optimal safety separation of heavy vehicles from other road users, and safety around speed reduction measures. The issue of separation of heavy vehicles from other road users is highly relevant for Wagga Wagga, because there will soon be a Transport for NSW Place Plan established in draft for comment. That plan is likely to propose a bypass to either the North or the South. There is community debate about the most appropriate site for the bypass. Feedback to Dr Joe would be welcomed, including through NatRoad. Dr Joe also spoke at length about road safety issues, supporting speed reduction measures, but also noting that this factor alone will not be sufficient to meet a zero road fatality target. NatRoad thanked Dr Joe for his insights and thoughtfulness, and we are determined to continue to provide him with feedback about local and industry issues.

Susie Harwood spoke about the Transport for NSW freight plans that emphasised the movement of goods in NSW and ways to make the freight task safer and more efficient. She mentioned that the curfews that were no longer imposed on retail deliveries would remain suspended until March 2022 whilst a study for the long term in relation to 24/7 deliveries could be completed. That study could then be shared with other States and Territories in order to better design regulation Australia wide.

Justin Halim’s presentation focused on moving to a demand based model for the use of roads by heavy vehicles, where it would be intended that a charge based on the particular journey, the mass of the vehicle and the length of the journey would be calculated and charged to the operator. That system would replace the current system of heavy vehicle charging through registration costs and the road user charge levied through diesel pricing. The Government is at present moving to have a major trial of the new charging system following the completion of a minor trial.  These trials would provide the necessary evidence for the utility and cost structure of the new charging system. The  Department of Infrastructure and NatRoad urged members to become involved with the trial by enrolling with the Department.

Richard Calver’s address was about three issues: first, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry’s costs and operations and the role NatRoad played in providing, at some stages of the pandemic, almost daily bulletins about cross border issues.  Secondly, he spoke about the varied regulation of signage in Australia and how nationally agreed and better signage needed to be in place. Thirdly, he discussed NatRoad’s role in providing advice to members on workplace relations focusing on the provision of rostered days off under the two major transport modern awards.

Paul Wiffrie spoke about the role that the organisation played in giving back to the community through organisations such as NatRoad and Healthy Heads in Trucks and Sheds. He spoke of how the dealer network continued to invest in local communities and that hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment and facilities would be invested over the next decade.

The next Regional Forum will be held in Wodonga today, 22 April and followed by an event in Wollongong on 26 May 2021. NatRoad members are encouraged to attend these events to give feedback and take part in the discussion of issues that affect the industry.