VTA calls for 'fair' tolling on Western Distributor
Anderson encourages toll operators to set 'realistic' tolls for heavy vehicles
The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) urges Transurban and the Victorian government to find a reasonable solution to public cries for heavy vehicle bans and curfews along the proposed Western Distributor and roads near the Port of Melbourne.
Addressing more than 120 attendees at the VTA’s annual Port Outlook seminar today, VTA CEO Peter Anderson says access to the port is a major concern for the industry.
Ongoing road and infrastructure upgrades in the inner west affect daily traffic. This, coupled with growing public opposition to heavy vehicle movement across residential areas makes it important for authorities to address the issue keeping in mind the interests of both the community and the freight industry, Anderson argues.
Authorities must apply "a reasonable fairness test" before imposing bans and toll charges on heavy vehicles.
"Unfortunately, it seems that as construction of the West Gate Distributor and the Western Distributor start to take shape, there are amplified calls for more curfews and bans on heavy vehicles that service the port," Anderson says.
The VTA will continue to work with community groups to address concerns about heavy vehicle movements and find "constructive solutions" that work for both sides.
But many community groups "fail to acknowledge is that heavy vehicles servicing the port are vital for strengthening our economy", Anderson says.
"They are needed to get goods from ships to road and rail networks, and eventually to their customers and end consumers, for our economy to prosper.
"We hope that through continued dialogue with community groups we can find constructive solutions, and strike a sensible balance between amenity concerns, with the reality that heavy vehicles have a right to use the road network."
The Western Distributor toll road and the West Gate Distributor will help to create better and more direct access to the port, and are vital for getting heavy vehicles off local roads and onto the larger freeways, "where they belong".
"The VTA is in discussion with Transurban about a fair tolling regime on the Western Distributor that will attract trucks and heavy vehicles to the road." Anderson says.
"This is especially important in the context of recent heightened calls for permanent bans on trucks because it is hardly fair to slam an unfair toll on a heavy vehicle when there are literally no alternatives.
"I know of several second tier operators that spend over $1 million a year on tolls alone, so one can only imagine how much first tier operators are paying.
"Operators are very willing to use toll roads if their cost is offset by productivity gains.
"So we encourage all toll road operators to set realistic tolls for trucks, and refrain from pricing operators away from toll roads."
With growing population and greater access to low-cost imported consumer goods the Australian freight task continues to grow, leading the industry to pivot towards increased use of high productivity freight vehicles, Anderson says.
"This will create its own challenges in terms of building and maintaining the infrastructure to safely accommodate these vehicles, and educating communities that HPFVs are a vital to minimise the amount of trucks on the roads."