• Mar8

    Proof WA is a Separate Country

    By Cam Dumesny

    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”.

    Map of Australia

    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.

    1. Rather the general focus in WA is on how to improve productivity, albeit the last couple of years have been on compliance.   The WA road transport culture within the industry, state government, bureaucracy and WARTA is more about big trucks, big volumes and big distances. Further proof that WA road task is driven by volume, is that according to BITRE, that two of Australia’s top four freight volume locations are WA Outback and WA Wheatfields. Those two WA statistical divisions are equivalent to the entire freight volume destination task of Melbourne – West, Sydney Inner and South, the Qld Darling Downs and NSW (New England and NW) combined!!!!!  (source: BITRE STATISTICAL ALERT – Road Freight Movement Survey, 2014).
    2. Secondly, as a simple example to demonstrate the cultural thinking, in WA over size over mass permits are issued within ONE day – in the East through the NHVR process it can be anywhere from 30 to 60 days! Any surplus made by the WA OSOM unit, is invested into removing road movement constraints such as putting low overhead powerlines underground.  (Note: If WA joins the NHVR, OSOM approval times must increase and any surplus made would be used to retire NHVR’s substantial debt rather than be invested in WA roads).
    3. Thirdly, WA has been trialing 60 metre road trains, in recognition of the need to improve productivity and efficiency in the resources sector. The success of the trial has led to consideration of potentially expanding the trial to other sectors within the state. The identification and development of such a trial is only possible due the cultural thinking within the WA Industry and Government, a culture not present at any level in the East.

    So Should WA join the NHVR?

    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.