The Australian Government should invest an extra $5 billion over ten years to fix freight roads, dangerous level crossings and to build more rest areas for truck drivers,  according to ATA chair, David Smith.

Smith  made the plea  while releasing the ATA’s 2024-25 pre-budget submission.

“Trucking is vital to the fabric of the Australian community, but the Government needs to make our freight roads better,” Smith said.

“To keep truck drivers safe, the Government needs to fix dangerous level crossings. And we need a concerted effort to fix rest areas, because the task is huge, and drivers aren’t seeing enough in the way of results.

“Australia must also invest in developing a defined all-weather network, with a supporting secondary network pre-approved for use, in the wake of road network closures due to fires, floods and crashes.

“To achieve this, the Australian Government should assume responsibility for major freight roads through the national highways program. This should include funding and operational responsibilities, including granting access approvals for heavy vehicles.

“The 2024-25 budget should include a new, $5 billion truck roads, level crossings and rest areas program over the next ten years. All the projects under the program should be linked to results, such as improving safety and enabling the industry to increase its use of high productivity trucks.

“Increasing the use of high productivity trucks would reduce total vehicle movements, reduce congestion growth and lower the cost of freight. High productivity trucks are more likely to be safer, quieter and less emissions intensive.

“The Government’s immediate priority should be to fund the road upgrades needed to allow 35 metre modular A-doubles on the Hume Highway in New South Wales.

“These trucks with two trailers can carry 44 pallets of freight, compared to 36 pallets in the 26 metre long B-doubles that are commonly used now,” he said.

The submission also argues that the Government should re-establish temporary full expensing for trucks and trailers and fund the states to reform stamp duty to encourage businesses to buy new, safer vehicles, support productivity and innovation by modifying the upcoming closing loopholes bill to ban the Fair Work Commission from mandating minimum freight rates and to redesignate truck driving as skill level 3 under the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) to enable eligible migrants to access truck driving work in Australia, provided they can meet Australia’s strict licensing requirements.