The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Transport pressure


Agricultur­e representa­tive groups are calling for changes to freight frameworks that would ease the logistical pressure of transport, particular­ly during grain harvest.

Grain Growers policy and advocacy manager Zachary Whale said there was a downward trend across the country of rail use for freight.

He said part of the reason was chronic under-investment in rail.

“Rail requires a monstrous amount of investment, especially rail that has had lower usage or has low axle load where you need to upgrade an entire system,” he said.

“The dollars and cents are eyewaterin­g, but it makes perfect sense because it has a lower emissions footprint, is more efficient, it takes trucks off roads therefore reduces maintenanc­e costs and it has an inherent safety benefit for the whole community.

“It needs to be part of how we tackle logistics going forward.”

Mr Whale said the trend towards more road use meant the trucking sector was becoming an even more important part of how to get grain to its ultimate destinatio­n.

“The past couple of years we’ve had bin-buster production across most states that meant the transport task on road was acute,” he said.

“That goes to the question do we have enough qualified, competent and safe drivers available to pick up the slack?

“Agricultur­e is unique as more often than not farmers have their trucks, which they use on-farm and on-road, and then they use a combinatio­n of contractor­s and commercial carriers to help with the extra, especially at harvest.

“But, if the truck industry experience­s significan­t shortages, ultimately that has an impact on how many truck drivers and trucks are available in key regions to help move the grain from ‘A’ to ‘B’.”

Mr Whale said most farmers liked the security of being able to transport their grain as a contingenc­y, but was not always possible when large quantities were produced, and on-farm storage was not always available.

“It’s about if there is enough capacity in the system to help, and we would also say rail should play a part in that, too. The whole system needs to work together,” he said.

“We certainly don’t want everything on-road, but we need enough competent and qualified drivers to help do the job when it is needed.”

Mr Whale said projection­s indicated production of grain was going to continue to increase.

“Therefore, we need to be constantly looking at how we optimise our supply chains so we can get goods from ‘A’ to ‘B’ in the most efficient, safe and costeffect­ive way possible,” he said.

“Farmers are great problem solvers and are used to having to roll their sleeves up and get the job done, but we need government to help make sure different frameworks are in place that are fit for purpose.

“We need reforms to go towards a competency framework, so we have drivers who have the right skills to do the job and make it less about an arbitrary time-based approach where you need to have a certain licence for a certain amount of time prior to being eligible for the next licence.

“That places less emphasis on competency and less emphasis on safety, it’s just time with a licence and it doesn’t take into account how many hours or kilometres you have done on that licence.

“Grain Growers and others have said we need government to have a look at competency­based frameworks to make sure our drivers have the skills they need to do the job safely.”

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