ROAD TRAIN SUMMIT
ROAD TRAIN SUMMIT
May - December 2001
Considerable community concern had been expressed over the
increasing incursion of long vehicles and road trains into the
metropolitan area on routes that were perceived to be neither safe nor
appropriate from an environmental and public amenity viewpoint. Many
freight route 'hotspots' in the community, not resolved to the
community's satisfaction, resulted in grass roots protests - highly
organised and persuasive. The community felt its issues and voice were
On coming to government, Labor honoured an election commitment and
placed a moratorium on any expansion plans and took a much tougher
stand on issuing permits. This, in turn, was greeted with outrage from
the industry, and dire warnings of its impact on the State's economy.
Emotions were running high. It was determined that if inroads were to
be made into participatory decision making, then what better place to
begin than one where there had been a lot of heat and not a lot of
Road Train Summit
To achieve this, the Road Train Summit was held, consisting of four
Consensus Forums in the Perth metropolitan area, Katanning, Kalgoorlie
The Consensus Forum is a democratic process for incorporating the
community in decision-making. It provides a way for lay people,
representative of the community, to deliberate on technically complex
issues, with the support of those who are 'expert' in the area. The
issues are explored using the best available knowledge and the widest
possible views. Where consensus is achieved, these views become
integral to the decision making process.
Considerable effort was made to ensure all stakeholders in the road
train debate were fairly represented. At each Consensus Forum, there
was a representative group of participants including:
members responding to advertisements in state wide and local
newspapers; and residents living on or near main truck routes, selected
from a large, official random sample
representatives: truck drivers, owners and operators; key users of road
trains and those working in associated industries; suppliers and
customers; and members of transport and safety lobby groups
- Government representatives: regulators and other state and local
government officers involved
Just under 100 participants attended each Forum, each person placed
to ensure the various stakeholder groups were represented at each small
table. Although there was only one Forum Facilitator, members of
parliament - Labor, Liberal and Greens - facilitated at each table,
together with CEOs of the Departments involved and their executive
teams. The Table Facilitators received detailed 'how to' facilitation
notes from the Forum Facilitator, and attended briefing and debriefing
sessions. Designated scribes from the Departments assisted at each
table, with the scribes also receiving 'how to' notes and participating
in training prior to the forums.
Steps in the Process
Prior to the Conference
As a result of a stakeholder focus group, the key issues to be
resolved were ascertained. Background papers were developed by
community groups, industry groups, local and state government for each
Consensus Forum, and circulated to participants prior to each Forum.
All participants were requested to read the papers before attending,
and to think of questions needing to be asked.
At the Forum
At the Consensus Forum, participants listened to short presentations
from the authors, added information from the floor and asked questions
of the panels. Dialogue at the tables began with a task of empathetic
listening, where each stakeholder's point of view needed to be
thoroughly understood by the other stakeholders at the table before
proceeding. The key issues to be resolved were determined at a plenary
To determine a broad range of options to address each issue and
discern the extent of consensus, a technique called 'Station Rounds'
was used. Each issue was written on a flip-chart and placed around the
circumference of the room. With one table team at each flip-chart, team
members brainstormed options to address that issue. After a set period
of time, the teams moved on to the next flip chart. Once there, members
stated the extent of their consensus with the options written, and
added new options.
Finally, each individual prioritised the most important options with
coloured stickers representing short, medium and long term priorities.
These were totalled to determine the priority short, medium and long
term consensus options. The technique used was a simple 'Nominal Group
After the Forum
Prioritised consensus options were then taken to the next Forum to
determine the extent of State-wide consensus. By the end of the four
Forums, there was a large list of consensus items for the Government to
The Minister's Role
The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Hon Alannah
MacTiernan, played an integral role at each Consensus Forum. She
indicated at each Forum that where consensus could be achieved, the
Government would respond by devising ways to incorporate that consensus
into the regulatory framework. Her objective was to ensure the
community was placed at the heart of decision-making.
Stakeholder Planning Implementation Team
All consensus options from the four Forums were referred on to a
small Planning Implementation Team of community, industry, state and
local government representatives, chosen by the Minister. This Team
worked together over several months to translate the consensus options
into actions to be undertaken under a series of key strategies.
Steered by the Implementation Team, and with the support of Main
Roads Western Australia, each action item was resourced and target
timelines set. Over the next two years, all participants received
quarterly feedback newsletters outlining the progress made against each
action target. At the end of two years, each action agenda in the Final
Report was put into effect.
Given the complexity of the issues to be resolved in such a short
time frame (ie one day per Consensus Forum) the day had to be highly
structured. The Table Facilitators were critical to the success of the
Forums, both because of their skills, and the symbolic value of having
politicians and senior bureaucrats really listening to the community�s
Papers and Discussion
Authors of papers were asked to be succinct, ie.4 - 8 pages, with
dot points, maps, illustrations and tables where possible to assist
Each of the authors was given only 10 minutes to present their
paper, in order to maximise the time for interactive debate. From the
level of the debate that ensued, it appeared that participants had read
the papers quite thoroughly before each Forum. It was not always easy
to manage the intensity of the debate, which could well have taken the
entire day if the Forum Facilitator had not intervened. It was always a
fine line between ensuring everyone had the opportunity to have their
say and moving the Forum on.
Possibly the most effective part of the day was the time spent in
empathetic listening, ensuring all voices were heard and understood.
Given the time constraints and large number of participants, the
�Station Rounds� technique used to gain consensus, was productive.
Again, because of time constraints, using the Nominal Group Technique
to determine priorities was possibly the only effective way to
determine what was most important to each Forum.
Ideally, there needed to be more time to explore ideas together. An
additional half day per Forum would have assisted.
Feedback from the stakeholders after the Summit changed radically
from negative, cynical, emotional and even abusive, to highly positive.
The consensus outcomes were far broader than any of the stakeholders
had anticipated. To respond to them, it was necessary to reorganise the
Main Roads department to deal with the new agenda. The acceptance of
interstate transport ministers and senior bureaucrats had to be
elicited to bring in compulsory accreditation of all road trains. This
was achieved. New ways of dealing with the public on changes to freight
road designations were trialled; and government policies and priorities
The community, industry, state and local government remained engaged
from the inception of the Consensus Forums through to implementation of
the Forum outcomes and their evaluation. The whole process took over 2
years. All the prioritised actions from the Forums have been put into