President’s Column – 22 November 2019

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

Around 230 people – some from as far away as northern Western Australia, Arnhem Land and Hobart – gathered at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills to hear the latest from Australia’s best in automation, electric trucks, road construction, road funding, safety and transportation technologies.

It was terrific to hear insights from our guest speakers, great questions from the floor, and to see technologies councils are using today, including electric vehicles, inspection drones, and recycled content in road construction.

I want to again thank the speakers and exhibitors who made our National Local Roads and Transport Congress a success, and summarise some the highlights from the presentations. You can download the slideshows here.

Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, the Hon. Mark Coulton MP, a former Mayor of the Gwydir Shire Council (NSW), is one of us.

He’s attended several road congresses as a mayor, and told our audience about the importance of local government and the Commonwealth Government’s faith in us to deliver, with the latest round of much needed drought relief funding being the latest example.

Romilly Madew AO, the Chief Executive of Infrastructure Australia, implored councils to get organised, use our asset management plans and evidence and, in particular, to work regionally on grant submissions seeking Commonwealth assistance.

Michael Caltabiano, Head of the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) encouraged delegates to use the ample and up-to-date research produced by his team. “Call us” he said, if you have any questions about standards, technical specifications, or the latest in incorporating recycled material into road construction..

Our guest speaker from the UK, Matthew Lugg OBE, Head of Profession, Local Government, at engineering and design firm WSP and President of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), said sustainable funding of roads was vital and an ongoing challenge.

He said road networks should be perceived as economic facilitators, to justify funding expenditure and grant applications. He also challenged Local Government to be more accountable for expenditure on roads including reporting measurable outcomes, using an evidence base in discussions with departments, governments and treasurers, and tracking success.

Future of Transport

Peter Damen from Level 5 Design said while the take up in Australia of electric vehicles including cars and trucks was slow, it is likely to increase in metropolitan areas first, perhaps with rideshare vehicles first and light commercial vehicles next, especially once the availability of electric and hydrogen trucks improves.

The City of Adelaide Lord Mayor, Sandy Verschoor, explained that 28 percent of the city’s CO2 emissions came from vehicles, 90 percent of which were passenger cars.

She said her council is a leader in providing charging points for electric vehicles and bicycles, and has a bold vision to have a fully-electric council vehicle fleet by 2030 – including all maintenance and waste management vehicles!

To show it’s possible we were delighted to have Australia’s first all electric tipper truck on display – an Isuzu converted by Dandenong automotive technology company, SEA Electric.

The company’s Joe Di Santo told Minister Coulton and myself that all the truck needs for recharging is access to a three-phase power outlet, while its regenerative brakes means it recharges while driving, potentially extending its 200km daily range.

We’re grateful too to the City of Yarra for loaning their truck so delegates could kick the actual tyres and see how it worked.

Greg Giraud of driverless vehicle company Easy Mile shared examples of local councils in Australia and Sweden which have trialed autonomous buses. He pointed out autonomous vehicles have the potential to lower the road toll through the use of extensive sensors and control devices.


The drones session, featuring representatives from Wing Australia, Australian UAV, the Commonwealth department in charge of air policy and the Australia Pacific RPAs consortium, gave us many ideas to consider, and showed how these machines are a great way to record asset conditions for councils’ wide range of asset classes.

Road Safety

Everyone has the right to arrive home safely, and that can be made more possible through Austroads  upcoming new tools and road rating processes.

It was particularly pleasing to hear Gabby O’Neill, the new head of the Commonwealth’s Office of Road Safety, say that the Commonwealth wants to work closely with Local Government to make roads safer.

Lastly, the Hon. Catherine King MP, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, highlighted the Reserve Bank Governor’s encouragement of the Commonwealth to invest in smaller infrastructure projects – an area in which local councils can start immediately.

A great Congress, with huge amounts of goodwill and positive feedback for the team. Many participants assured me they were taking away a number of ideas to implement back home.

Our 2020 roads congress will be in Hobart, so don’t forget to save the date when we announce it in the new year.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President