Well from a Road Transport point of view at least, the WA Road Transport sector operates in effective isolation from the rest of the Eastern States.
The isolated nature of the WA freight task is highlighted in the graph below. Basically almost all of WA freight task, which is the largest in Australia, totally occurs within WA (big blue bar)!! That tiny little brown speck next to the blue bar for WA, shows how insignificant interstate road transport is with the rest of the country (use a magnifying glass if you cannot see it). (source: BITRE Road Freight Movements, Australia, 12 months ended 31 October 2014.)
Furthermore, when you consider the national freight volumes by modes, it quickly becomes apparent the WA relies on Rail and Sea to connect to the East, not road. In fact, road now only accounts for a miniscule fraction (that really, really, really thin blue line going west-east) of freight movements west-east. Additionally, this is declining as more businesses move to rail to transport across “the paddock”.
This effective separation from the East, has created the development of a very different road transport culture in WA. In the East, one issue dominates the entire road transport sector, and that is the major retailers and their supply chains. Whether you speak to industry associations, unions, regulators or advisors their entire thinking is seen through the lens of the perennial conflict in the retail chain, where time and margin pressures dominate all thinking.
In WA, the road transport sector is dominated by the resources and agricultural sectors. Both sectors require large volume, large distance transport to bring in the required inputs to support production and to carry out the production outputs.
Yes, margins particularly at the moment are a concern, but it is generally not the dominant topic in WA.
So the question has to be inevitably asked – what advantage would there be in WA joining the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator?
We would gain another layer of bureaucracy, located 4,309 km away in another state, in another time zone, effectively in another country whose focus and concern is all about the time pressures of the major retailers and their supply chains, not the big volumes, big distances and big trucks that define WA road transport sector.
Joining NHVR would be a major economic mistake not just for WA, but for the Australian economy which critically relies on WA (and its road transport sector) to produce 40% of the national export income.