Trucking told to wait for new rest area funding

Top transport bureaucrat says more rest areas needed but trucking will need to wait three years for more funding

By Brad Gardner | June 3, 2011

The Federal Government’s top transport bureaucrat says more heavy vehicle rest areas are needed but trucking operators will need to wait at least another three years for funding.

Facing Senate estimates hearings last week, Infrastructure and Transport Secretary Mike Mrdak said no more money for rest areas would be allocated under the existing Nation Building Program.

The six-year infrastructure program will expire in 2013-14, and Mrdak says the Federal Government will consider funding in the next scheme, which will run from 2014-15 to 2019-2020.

"There is no doubt it is one of the key priorities for the heavy vehicle industry, and we share their concern that we need to invest more into these facilities. This is a matter which I am sure the government will look at in forthcoming consideration of the Nation Building Program 2," Mrdak says.

"We certainly believe the forecast growth in heavy vehicles, as well as the current demand, requires additional infrastructure in these types of facilities."

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese in 2008 announced $70 million towards 246 rest area projects under the Nation Building Program, of which 169 have been completed.

The Federal Budget, handed down in May, allocated the remaining $28 million under the program to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Mrdak agreed with former truck driver and Nationals Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams, who said $70 million was not enough to meet necessary rest area guidelines.

"I agree with you that, to meet the NTC [National Transport Commission] guidelines, to meet the fatigue regime we would like to see in place, we would like to see more provision for these truck stops and other facilities for the heavy vehicle industry," Mrdak told him.

Infrastructure Australia manager Alex Foulds, who also fronted estimates hearings, says the $70 million investment includes toilets and amenities for some rest areas.

"For a number of others it is just the space required to park or change, but it is dependent on the project, so some do and some do not, depending on their size," he says.

Foulds says the inclusion of toilets and facilities depends on the applications put forward by state road authorities, such as Queensland Transport and Main Roads and the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

"Usually the RTA? That is a worry," Williams responded.

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