Skip to main content
  Email Internal Link   Email External Link  

Report Details

Committee Name:

Select Committee on Heavy Transport


Legislative Assembly
Report Type:Report


Select Committee
Report No:1
No of Pages:146
Physical Location:State Law Publisher

Presentation Date:


Click here to view the report

Hide details for Executive SummaryExecutive Summary

Heavy freight transport’s role is intertwined with the lifestyle all Western Australians enjoy. As a result of this, opportunities to save on transport costs should not be lightly foregone. With the introduction of road trains into the Perth metropolitan area, people are asking whether the savings in transport costs outweigh their increased fear of having to share the road with these vehicles.

Because the State’s roads are generally lightly trafficked by some overseas and interstate standards, heavy trucks cause few crash fatalities and injuries, or property damage. Nevertheless, rail freight transport in Western Australia is very much safer than road freight transport.

Where new transport methods are suggested, it is no longer acceptable that they be tried until something goes seriously wrong. Too many lives have been lost elsewhere in bus and truck crashes to continue going down this path to change.

The Committee views most seriously the responsibility and accountability conferred on those who build and manage public transport infrastructure used by heavy freight trucks and trains. To the extent that this responsibility and accountability are dispersed the Committee considers that access to roads should be unambiguously enshrined in the Road Traffic Act 1974.

Pivotal to the Committee’s deliberations has been the legal principle of misfeasance whereby road authorities are liable for injury or damage caused by the condition of roads where these conditions are proven to be negligently created by them.

Western Australia leads the world in the size of vehicles allowed access to public roads. Consequently, there are difficulties in demonstrating that road authorities are exercising reasonable care simply because there is less technical consensus on what constitutes good practice in regard to these vehicles in some traffic situations.

The community is clearly saying that lives and peace of mind are major considerations that must be factored into transport policy.

The Committee considers that a responsible introduction of bigger trucks should be preceded by the best available risk assessment techniques. The use in the United Kingdom of Risk Analysis to make a Safety Case is a technique that would be appropriate for this purpose.

The Committee recommends that road trains should not be permitted access to Perth metropolitan roads beyond existing breakdown points until more is known about their capability and stability, and a comprehensive risk analysis and safety case is undertaken or, they are restricted to dedicated, or limited-access, lanes and/or roads.

The Committee’s consultations, evidence and investigative visits gathered a host of suggestions for improving heavy freight transport. To assist in their consideration, the Committee developed a framework which allows a sorting and prioritisation of the policy and practical solutions which it feels should be further pursued.

The Committee regards safety as the highest priority. It makes 37 recommendations on safety, ranging from how safety capital works should be funded to possible licensing of drivers who tow caravans, and examination of any link between driver fatigue and exposure to diesel emissions.

Cost and service quality considerations are the Committee’s second priority, followed by nuisance, environmental concerns and living standards and mobility.

Clearly, not everybody will agree on the Committee’s priorities. The framework should, however, prove useful in the ongoing debate about heavy freight transport because it allows all the interests to form their own suggestions and priorities.

The Committee recommends that targets should be struck for sharing the heavy freight transport task between road and rail. While it would prefer that there be competitive settlement of the road versus rail debate, the Committee considers that there are significant impediments to competition. In particular it considers that regional heavy road freight transport track costs are significantly cross-subsidised by cars, while rail track costs are fully recovered from users of rail.

Where significant change in transport policy is contemplated, the Committee recommends that the impacts should be fully and openly assessed. Where impacts of a change in policy fall unequally on individuals, the Committee recommends that compensation should be considered for the unavoidable impacts.

The Committee was impressed by North American technology specifically designed to run road trailers on rail track. It recommends that provision should be made in regional plans for possible road-rail infrastructure, and that there should be support for a proposed trial of 3 R’s Ecorail technology.

The Committee recommends that random safety inspection of trucks be adequately resourced. It considers that truck noise should be seriously tackled, including consideration of progressive installation of modern exhaust brakes on older trucks. On exhaust emissions, the Committee recommends adoption of the ten second smoke rule, more random roadside testing, and consideration of the Swedish system for imposing government fuel levies according to the environmental qualities of diesel fuel.