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Changes ahead for transport industry

By: Thanh Loan Nguyen
25 August, 2010

Feature of the week: In the leadup to the election, the Greens' campaign wanted to remove all freight off roads, and redirect the money into regional rail infrastructure, to boost regional economies.

New South Wales candidate Lee Rhiannon believes this agenda would not only create more jobs but farmers would have more options to have their products transported to their designated destinations.

"We would be seeing rail hubs, where you have the maintenance of the rail, hopefully in time we can also have the rail manufacturing in more regional centres.

"We need to make the 21st century the century of rail transport. That holds great future for NSW in terms of economic benefits as well as environmental benefits.

"The Greens' policy of shifting subsidies for freight movement from road to rail would certainly help to return to a situation where more of our regional centres are based around rail developments. The job growth there would be huge," Rhiannon said.

However, the truck drivers around the country aren't very happy with the Greens' plans. Jason Cooks, a truck driver that delivers fruits and vegetables to supermarkets in Queensland, believes that with this policy, many drivers will be out of work.

"We all have to work and earn our money. If they go ahead with this agenda, many of my mates and I will be out of work," Cooks said.

In another shakeup to the transport industry, tougher laws will be introduced to reduce the amount of accidents caused by truck drivers. The National Transport Commission will be reviewing the state's heavy vehicle and rail laws ahead of a new takeover in 2013 by other national regulators.

According to The Australian Trucking Association's Jill Lewis, truck drivers could automatically lose demerit points if they are caught breaching new national fatigue laws.

"They automatically lose their job, they lose their income, they can't pay their mortgages," Lewis said.

However, The Rail, Tram and Bus Union's Bob Nanva is concerned that this announcement might mean rail workers would have to work longer hours.

"What the draft legislation proposes is to allow rail operators the flexibility to determine their own shift lengths, and to determine what they think are reasonable rest breaks that could potentially be done on the basis of what’s cost efficient," said Nanva.

Nanva does believe that tougher laws for truck drivers are a necessity.

"When it comes to the safety of the public, that's not acceptable," he said.

Meanwhile the Bell Bay rail line in northern Tasmania will reopen in September to offer local businesses a freight transport alternative.

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