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The ability of agriculture to deliver economic prosperity for all Queenslanders critically depends upon well-maintained roads and rail, and ongoing improvements in transport infrastructure.

Fixing the Queensland Country Rail program

Queensland has some of the worst-performing rail infrastructure in Australia and it is damaging to our export competitiveness. As transportation often accounts for up to a third of the total cost of production, we need to invest in improving the supply chain to bring these costs down. As international competitors continue to improve and eat into our market share abroad, we must ensure we have a supply chain that is both efficient and cost-effective so we can remain competitive.

Unfortunately, in Queensland, agricultural producers must grapple with low axle limits, poorly maintained tracks and frequently cancelled services due to lack of crews or maintenance. This is not acceptable for a state that boasts the largest share of Australia's agricultural output.

Queensland deserves a well maintained and highly functioning rail system that meets the needs of all its users. Rail is a highly efficient means of transportation, especially for bulk commodities like grains. But it is much more than efficiency - it also increases road safety and reduces road maintenance costs by taking trucks off the roads and it reduces emissions.

Rail makes sense for Queensland broadacre agriculture, it just needs government to give it a chance.

Solution that AgForce advocates:
Establish a Fixing Queensland Country Rail program with funding to prioritise and invest in much needed 'up country' infrastructure improvements.

Roads - Better network knowledge
Since the advent of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) all road managers have the responsibility of allowing access to their respective road network. Unfortunately, some road managers, especially at the local government level, are ill-equipped to make these access decisions in a timely manner. Often there is a lack of understanding of network capability or a lack of funding to address network shortfalls.

This costs industry considerably, with governments requiring permits for access which take time and costs money. Access is often restricted in areas where it is most crucial for productivity (i.e. feedlots and grain handling facilities). There must be better network understanding between all road managers so access is sensible and timely, and allows transporters to get produce from paddock to place as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Solution that AgForce advocates:
Develop a local government fund to assist road managers in better understanding the freight task and to identify key network limitations. This can then inform further investment decisions to address the identified shortfalls.

Roads - Funds for fixing identified network issues
Investment at the local government level is vital in ensuring produce and inputs can be moved from paddock to place as efficiently as possible. Often, due to lack of funding, infrastructure shortfalls mean transporters need to use less efficient (lighter) combinations or go the 'long way round', costing many sectors, not just agriculture, time and money.

Strategic investment within local governments, to enable them to optimise their freight task will drive transport efficiencies, improve the competitiveness of Queensland agriculture and ultimately lead to safer, better-maintained roads.

Solution that AgForce advocates:
Create a local government fund to invest in infrastructure shortfalls which have a significant impact on agricultural transportation. Based on sound evidence of network shortfalls, local government could apply for funding which would enable them to improve access.

Roads - Advancing beyond access permits
Permits are arbitrary and cost industry significant time and money. Often road access permits are continually required although always allowed – in these cases, there is no valid reason for permits. If roads can handle certain combinations, they should be gazetted so transporters and primary producers can get on with the job and not get caught up in arbitrary red tape.

In modern Queensland, we should be able to effectively establish which parts of the network can handle what sized agricultural vehicles. The current system does not work and is inherently inefficient.

Solution that AgForce advocates:
AgForce seeks a change in government policy, moving away from the use of permits. Permits should only be used as a pathway to gazettal and if a route can handle a certain combination, it should be allowed 'as of right' rather than requiring arbitrary permits.

Chain of Responsibility

The Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation came into effect in September 2008 in all jurisdictions.

Under CoR, complying with the law is a shared responsibility. Anybody – not just the driver – who has control over the transport task can be held responsible for breaches of road laws and may be legally liable.

CoR legislation was already a feature of laws covering mass and dimension limits, load restraint requirements, driving hours and dangerous goods laws (check the status with relevant road agencies), and so the new laws expanded the scope (fatigue) and parties able to be held responsible (consignees, consignors, etc.)

Most importantly it also reversed the onus of proof, meaning that documentation of instructions and more written contracts will be required, especially for consignees, consignors and transport schedulers.

As a producer, it is crucial you understand your role (as a consignor or potentially a driver or a scheduler) in the chain, and the responsibilities which this creates.

Your responsibility

AgForce urges members to familiarise themselves with these requirements. Queensland Transport provides a full explanation of the responsibilities of:

Although Queensland Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin has committed to making the Transport Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 workable for producers, there are still some significant practice change which will be needed by all parts of the livestock supply chain.

Under the new chain of responsibility legislation, you will need to ask your transporter/transport company if they will comply with the requirements. In addition to the fatigue and mass and volume questions, producers should ask if transporters have the necessary permits to drive b-doubles or road train on a specific road.

In order to satisfy the requirements, you must now start to ask the scheduler of the transport company if they have the necessary permits. If they do not, you should insist they get the appropriate permission, or if a problem with finding permitted trucks occurs regularly then consider getting the permit yourself.


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