AN extension of a trial to temporarily allow 36.5m road trains carting perishable goods up and down Greenmount Hill has driven calls to widen the permit parameters and make the change permanent.
The Flood Relief Permit has been in place since February 2 to alleviate supply shortages after floods in South Australia disrupted road and rail freight to Perth in January.
That permit has been extended to March 27, but Livestock and Rural Transport Association president David Fyfe said Western Australian trucks carting local goods didn’t meet the requirements.
“All these trucks going up and down are from the Eastern States,” he said.
“We have members that carry not only livestock but also mining freight from the Goldfields and we can’t get those Western Australian trucks up and down that hill because the transport minister and Main Roads won’t allow it because they’re not deemed essential goods.
“There are vehicles going up and down that hill right now that in gross weight are heavier than what the normal [27.5m] freight trucks are.”
Currently, 36.5m road trains that do not meet the requirements have to break down to single trailers or 27.5m combinations at Northam and make two or more trips into Perth.
Mr Fyfe said this not only slowed down the delivery of goods but increased traffic and lowered productivity.
“They unhook at Northam, bring one trailer in, unload, go back for the second one and then go back to Perth,” he said.
“That’s more than 200km and four movements that could be cut in half.
“Less movements equals less traffic, less pavement wear, it’s a lot better for the economy for the transport operator, the freight sender and receiver and also for the driver.”
Under the current permits, trucks must also be equipped with the latest in safety technology including in-cabin fatigue monitoring systems, electronic braking and rear facing cameras.
According to Mr Fyfe, the strict requirements disadvantaged small operators who, while meeting industry standard safety requirements, did not have the most modern trucks.
“Safety is always the main thing before anything else, safety is what we [the Livestock and Rural Transport Association] promote – safety and productivity,” he said.
“In WA we all have Main Roads accreditation, our equipment has to be in a very good, safe condition.
“We are pleading with Main Roads to let all accredited vehicles up and down Greenmount Hill.”
Between February 2 and March 11, 282 36.5m vehicles descended Greenmount Hill under the permit, or about 7 to 8 trucks a day.
While the Flood Relief Permit is relatively new, a South Australian Transport carrier has been transporting fresh refrigerated fruit and vegetables between Adelaide and Perth under a separate trial for the past 12 months without incident, further pushing the argument to allow other trucks to access Greenmount Hill.
“Our state and our country is growing so much and freight is struggling to keep up,” Mr Fyfe said.
“Now it takes a year to order a new truck or trailer when it used to take four months.
“Everything has grown so much and we can’t say no to trucks.”
By Claire Ottaviano