Heavier trucks not the answer; get freight on rail: ARA

Rail lobby leaps on findings that road deaths could be reduced if road freight is transferred to rail

By Rob McKay | June 25, 2010

The Australasian Railway Association has leapt on findings that up to 45 road deaths a year could be reduced if 15 percent of contestable road freight is transferred to rail.

The figures appears in the May issue of the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety.

"A simple shift to rail of the 15 percent of road freight said to be transferable (or contestable) could save up to 45 lives annually (calculated on the basis of roughly three deaths for every 1 percent of freight hauled)," Tasmanian transport and road safety researcher Peter MacKenzie writes.

He also suggests that by shifting the same amount of freight from road to freight 275 people or more could avoid serious long-term disabilities and estimates the savings at more than $1 billion.

In an echo of transport industry debate in January following a spate of accidents involving trucks, MacKenzie went on to support the compulsory shifting of freight from road to rail, starting with fuel products and other dangerous goods.

He notes Infrastructure Australia’s estimate that $42 billion will need to be spent to bring the national highway to a four-star safety rating.

In highlighting the article, Australasian Railway Association Chief Executive Bryan Nye says his organisation is seeking the optimisation of the best mode of transport for each type of freight task rather than engaging in competition with the trucking industry.

"Our vision is that where there is a viable rail network, such as between the capital cities, freight is transported by an efficient rail network to integrated intermodal terminals where it is forwarded to its city location by smaller trucks, preferably avoiding peak periods of congestion," Nye says.

Despite the caveat, Nye reiterates the ARA’s opposition to higher-productivity vehicles.

"Putting more or heavier trucks on the road is not a sustainable solution for the nation," he says.

Nye wants "governments of all persuasions to do everything possible to help rail take freight off the road".

A response from the Australian Trucking Association was awaited at deadline today.

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