As a committed advocate for safety in road transport, Gallagher National Head of Transport Roz Shaw welcomes the Federal Budget allocation for improvements but would like to see the government also focus on driver licensing reform.
“It would be good to see some positive initiatives and a real commitment from the government to fix the issues around driver training and the higher risk of incidents with inexperienced drivers on the roads,” she says.
Road safety funding for 2019‒2020 is set at $2.2 billion, including $275 million for the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, $6 million for the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiatives, and $275 million for the Bridges Renewal Program.
Shaw believes existing licensing regulations allow drivers behind the wheel without sufficient relevant proven skills and the driver shortage in meeting projected 26% growth in the national freight demand over the next seven years is exacerbating the problem.
“Heavy vehicle operating has many elements to it and requires drivers to operate equipment worth millions of dollars, or deliver dangerous goods and sensitive loads, and yet there is no formal qualification for this important career,” she says.
“For over twenty years more formal training has been discussed in Australia but ultimately nothing has progressed. Starting with schools and progressing through to TAFE and practical training, the transport task needs to be identified as a career and not just an interim job.”
Regional and remote road networks
The Budget allocates $200 million towards a fourth round of the Building Better Regions Fund, which supports regional and remote communities by providing financed for planned and budgeted infrastructure projects.
“Infrastructure spending is fantastic for all industries as it creates jobs and work,” Shaw says. She views funding for highway upgrades as a positive step but, with Australia’s freight task ranking fifth in global terms, believes further action is required.
“Much of Australia’s transport network is on regional roads and this never seems to be a big focus in the infrastructure spend,” she notes. “Of course, that’s not where the voters are.”
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