Not happy Alannah, say drivers

27 Jul, 2006 07:00 PM
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LIVESTOCK stranded in yards and backlogged grain could be a real-life scenario on WA farms this year under the State Government's new heavy vehicle period permit.

Under the new permit system, a series of approved road networks has been established to permit trucks of various combinations to travel on.

While truck operators are angry some roads to clients' properties have been left off the network, they warn that farmers will be the hardest hit under the new system.

To compound frustration, truck drivers with 4.6m livestock crates would have to contact Western Power to get permission to travel down a road not on the network, under special access guidelines.

At the Livestock Transporters and Country Bulk Carriers Association WA annual conference last week in Busselton, truck operators said farmers' lifeline would be cut if they could not get to their properties.

In some cases truck operators might not be able to provide clients with services this year - despite doing so for the past 20 years.

State Opposition leader Paul Omodei spoke at the conference and said it would be impractical for trucks to be taken off certain roads.

"Rural road access is a major issue for the industry, particularly for articulated vehicles," Mr Omodei said.

"There are huge anomalies that need to be addressed by the government and obviously they are causing some real headaches for Main Roads."

Mr Omodei said stamp duty revenue last year was $1.83 billion compared to $585 million in 2001.

"Whilst we have had huge royalties coming into the state, the government has continued to fleece the people of WA," Mr Omodei said.

"I don't think the Department of Planning and Infrastructure works.

"Transport and planning and infrastructure need to be separated.

"Our willingness would be to have some commonsense and workable policy for the industry."

The responsibility of assessing roads to be included on the network is up to Main Roads, if approval from the local government is granted for trucks to travel on certain roads within their shire.

Some roads which trucks regularly travelled on have been left off the network and access on other roads stops halfway, often where shire boundaries change.

The truck industry was also dismayed at special conditions placed on certain roads on the network because they were supposedly gravel, when they had actually been bitumen surfaced for some years.

Mr Omodei said the road assessment guidelines and the capacity of Main Roads to classify the roads was a matter of great concern.

But Main Roads defended its new heavy vehicle period permit and road network system to truck operators at the conference.

Main Roads heavy vehicle access planning manager John Rossiter and network services executive director Des Snook admitted there had been some problems when implementing the road network system.

There was a heavy reliance on local government cooperation when registering roads for assessment with Main Roads, Mr Snook said.

"There are some local governments who just don't want trucks travelling on certain roads," he said.

Mr Rossiter said more than 800 roads had been added to the network since March.

Main Roads is proposing to roll out a revised road network every three months, beginning next year, he said.

The new heavy vehicle period permit is valid for three years and truck drivers are required to carry their permit, operating conditions documents and a table of permitted network roads.

The table of permitted access roads in WA is thicker than two phone books when printed out.

Alternatively, it is available on disk.

Meanwhile, compliance and enforcement legislation is due to be tabled in WA Parliament next year.

If passed, the chain of responsibility legislation will share legal liability for breaches of road laws.

Legal access to a property will become a shared responsibility, where everyone from the farmer to those at the end of the supply chain will be liable under the proposed legislation.

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