15pc transport hike

27 Nov, 2002 10:00 PM
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NEW transport laws will increased costs by 10-15pc for rural producers, according to transport operator Neville Mathews.

The State Government has given "in principle" support to the chain of responsibility laws proposed by the National Road Transport Commission. Penalties range from $400-$50,000 for severe breaches.

The Road Transport Reform (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill was released for public discussion in June and was expected to be implemented next year.

But there has been concern from the rural sector about a lack of consultation and many growers were still in the dark over its impact on agriculture.

The laws were designed to extend liability beyond vehicle owners and drivers to those involved in the consignment, loading and receival of road freight.

It could force companies such as Co-operative Bulk Handling to turn away overloaded trucks from receival points at harvest.

Mr Mathews said the regulations would have an impact of costs from the farmgate through to exports.

"This is not about safety. It is about raising revenue," Mr Mathews said.

"There has been no public discussion. It is the minister for transport directing the policing authorities to use the legislation to raise revenue.

"In Queensland, they have a 10pc tolerance levels for overloaded grain trucks at harvest but they will not be available to WA growers under the new legislation.

"They are saying, don't run to your limit - run one tonne underweight - and that is going to increase freight costs. And those costs will be passed on right through the supply chain.

"CSBP have already cut back tolerance levels for fertiliser."

Main Roads spokesman Dean Roberts said it was a national process and consultation would come from the NRTC.

But State National party agriculture spokesman Murray Criddle said it was the State Government's responsibility to make sure WA growers understood the new rules.

"They need to know why CBH depot personnel might be forced to turn away overloaded trucks," Mr Criddle said.

"Everybody accepts that safety in transport is paramount but we will now have CBH, a private company, being asked to police overloading and other breaches."

Mr Criddle said the government should run a series of statewide seminars for farmers and transporters.

CBH logistics manager Michael Musgrave said he has written to the NRTC to underline the unusual situation for growers loading grain at harvest.

Often grain from different paddocks can vary in weight and it could be difficult for growers to gauge the exact tonnage.

"Safety is a critical issue and CBH is committed to meeting high safety standards and working with authorities to maintain a safe work environment," Mr Musgrave said.

"We are aware of the pressure the legislation will place on growers to accurately load in the paddock and CBH endeavours to help growers to load responsibly and be safe during the pressure time at harvest.

"We are in the process of implementing a range of procedures to respond to the impending legislation in an effective and responsible fashion."

Footnote: Farm Weekly contacted the office of the State Minister for Transport, Main Roads WA and the National Transport Commission to get details on the consultation process, tolerance levels and overloaded grain trucks.

No-one was able to provide the paper with that information at the time of going to press. It will endeavour to clarify those points next week.

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