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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 568

Senator DEVLIN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to Press reports that the Federal Government is proposing that truck speed limits on Australian highways be increased to 100 kilometres an hour outside built-up areas? If so, can he explain the rationale to those members of the public who see such a move as undesirable for road safety?

Senator GIETZELT —The Senate would be aware that the Government last year commissioned the Inquiry into the National Road Freight Industry, chaired by Mr May. The report of that inquiry has been in the hands of the Government for some time. The report seeks to co-ordinate all the activities of the trucking industry in particular, because most trucking businesses are involved in interstate trade and passage from State to State. I have seen the report, but it needs to be emphasised that the primary responsibility for road speeds rests with the States. The States can vary, and on occasions have varied, the speed limits imposed on traffic on State road systems. The proposals for some degree of uniformity form part of a package for the implementation of the recommendations of the May report. That report has already received wide acclaim within the trucking industry.

The Government proposes to legislate to provide for registration and licensing of interstate trucking operators, and it will establish a consultative committee with the States and the industry in order to achieve those objectives. In return, the States are being asked to introduce a graduated driving licence system for truckies; to improve the cost recovery rates of the railways; to introduce reforms on finance and insurance; to remove fees on out-of-State vehicles; and to allow trucks to travel at the same speed as other vehicles on the road.

I am informed that the greatest road safety problem is caused by the low speed of trucks compared with that of other vehicles. I know that many people would find it difficult to accept that analysis, but that is the conclusion. The figures show that 50 per cent of all fatal crashes involving trucks involve vehicles that are overtaking the trucks. As the responsibility for road speeds rests with the States, the national Government will be seeking to get some uniformity, in the belief that it will lead to improved safety on our national roads system.