CHAIN MAIL: Truck sales will improve … eventually

Back in early January, Hino claimed it was being “optimistically realistic” in planning almost 20% growth in the Oceania region by 2012, and that was long before the prime minister even mentioned the $42 billion economic stimulus package.Hino Australia chief operating officer Steve Lotter said at the time the company was pressing ahead with plans to develop significant new trucks due for release in Australia before 2012.He said that while it was impossible to ignore the reality of world markets, it was also important to plan to be stronger as an outcome.In the wake of news that the stimulus package had been approved, Isuzu forecast benefits for the transport industry as a whole, with safety at the top of the list. Isuzu Australia chief operating officer Phil Taylor said the package would see a $650 million funding boost for local community infrastructure and maintenance of Australia’s national highways. He said an additional 350 projects will be funded as part of the Black Spot program and around 200 new boom gates are to be installed at high-risk rail crossings. “This increased investment in road maintenance is very welcome – it will help stimulate the economy, create new jobs and deliver long-term benefits to all road users,” Taylor said.If the influence of the package is deep enough, the safer, more efficient road infrastructure will – all going to plan – attract more people back to the transport industry and eventually generate truck sales. But Lotter said while it was hard to predict global financial movements no one should be talking down the market.“Hino Australia has determined we will remain optimistically realistic,” he said. “The goal in these circumstances is to ensure that our customers receive the service and support they require to assist their businesses”. Indeed, this position will be greatly assisted when the state of the industry as a whole is improved. Road transport is the dominant freight transport mode in Australia, transporting about 75% of Australia’s domestic freight, according to industry data. Due to Australia’s geography and a limited rail network, road is often the only mode possible for freight within cities. “These figures confirm the importance of the road transport industry in Australia, and the need for this additional government funding,” Taylor said.The previous government allocated only $300 million per year to maintenance under AusLink. This figure was inadequate and the effects are now being felt across the highway network. “Economic stimulus measures will focus on infrastructure to improve safety and efficiency on the roads,” Taylor said. “Driver fatigue prevention is also an area in need of increased funding.”“In 2006, the National Transport Commission (NTC) estimated that heavy vehicle driver fatigue may have been the cause of 33 fatal crashes, 156 serious crashes and 3214 minor crashes in 1996 – the base year for its analysis,” he said.Taylor said the provision of heavy vehicle rest areas is one of the keys to addressing driver fatigue. “The government’s stimulus package will assist in increasing the number and quality of rest areas to improve truck drivers’ safety.”

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