NHVR using states to solve permit issues

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has had to revert to something like the old system of using the state authorities to process permit applications after the new national permit system failed to deliver in the first week of operation, causing delays and confusion for the heavy haulage industry. This follows the announcement, last week, which asked operators seeking permits to approach local authorities themselves to get consent to use particular routes.

This week staff from the state agencies which, until ten day ago, were processing the permits are being co-opted back into the process to help clear the backlog which has now formed and is causing further delays. The continuing bureaucratic sclerosis looks set to take time to clear and the operators who depend on permits can expect more delays and confusion for some time to come.

“Last week, the NHVR allowed any operator who wanted to speed up their permit processing time to directly seek consent from the applicable local government and attach a copy of the consent to either a new or existing NHVR permit application,” said NHVR CEO, Richard Hancock. “Today, the NHVR Board resolved to continue to working closely with state government road transport departments to resolve issues with time-critical oversize and overmass vehicle permits.

“Some state government agencies have already provided key staff to assist the NHVR application processing team and we are very appreciative of their cooperation. These arrangements will assist the faster processing of those applications that urgently need approval in the short term.”

One of the issues which occurred in the first week was caused when operators applying online for permits didn’t get a response and presumed the application hadn’t gone through. They would then try again, with the same result, no confirmation the application was received. Now, multiple applications for the same movement are sitting in the system and the NHVR are unable to work out how many are needed and which are duplicates.

Some operators are reporting improved response times from the NHVR but there is clearly going to be an ongoing problem for some time to come. A recurring problem seems to be between the NHVR and the local authorities who have neither the staff or the expertise to deal with access requests quickly. In the past, their long term relationship with the state authorities had made decision making easier.

I would seem the NHVR has been dumped in the deep end and is struggling to tread water. The question needs to be asked, how this happened and whether the lack of understanding of the sheer volume and complexity of permit applications was due to the tension which has existed between the state authorities and the interloper, the NHVR?

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NTC call for feedback on chain of responsibility rules

A review, by the National Transport Commission, of the current chain of responsibility regulations has reached the stage where the NTC is calling for the transport industry to respond to a number of options for change to the COR rules. The introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) was seen as the right time to get the COR rules tightened up and better aligned to the way the national WHS regime is regulated. Read more

RMS target Coles

Channel 7 went big on the raid by the Roads and Maritime Services on the Coles Smeaton Grange DC. There’s lots of talk of targeting specific company with the RMS’s, normally very diplomatic, Peter Wells specifically naming M and R Transport, Coles and Linfox.

From the point of view of the companies in the firing line, and the transport industry generally, it is not clear quite what the campaign is trying to achieve. The accident at Mona Vale last October set off a major campaign by the RMS against Cootes which was well publicised to ensure the NSW public knew the government were doing something about the deaths in a fireball on the roads of Sydney.

It would appear the events of late 2013 gave an opportunity for the RMS to reassert its reputation for going in hard on trucking companies who misbehave, as well as tie up loose ends on ongoing investigations. This is also happening at a point when the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is supposed to be taking over, nationally, the supervision of chain of responsibility and NHVAS investigations. Does this flexing of muscles have anything to do with sending a message to Brisbane, home of NHVR HQ?

Talking Turkey About Trucking

How much patience do we have?

The current situation surrounding the heavy haulage industry and permit applications being processed by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator looks likely to sour the, previously good, relationship between the trucking industry and the new regulator.

One of the busiest high pressure sectors of the industry is almost at a standstill as permits are getting lost in the new NHVR system. A situation where the heavy haulage people are phoning the NHVR helpline and sitting on hold for long periods before getting told someone will phone them back is causing steam to come out of the ears of many owners and staff in operations offices all over the eastern seaboard.

Millions of dollars of equipment is sitting waiting for permission to move because the NHVR system just cannot cope with the normal flow of permit applications. These heavy haulage operators have customers who are also getting extremely frustrated because their heavy haulage supplier can’t tell them when the load will arrive, they can’t even tell them when it will set off!

The NHVR put out a media release on Thursday night admitting it was aware of the situation.

“We’ve spoken with frontline operators and industry associations. We’ve heard that we need to do better and we’re moving quickly to respond to industry concerns,” said NHVR CEO, Richard Hancock in the statement. “Effective from midnight, Thursday 13 February, we will now allow operators to obtain approval to travel on the council road network directly from the councils concerned.

“If you already have approval to travel on council roads granted before 10 February 2014, we will recognise this. Operators still have to secure all other approvals from electricity companies, rail authorities and other third parties as part of their application before their permit can be issued. This is just a transitional measure for these very early days of operation and we will continue to monitor the situation and listen to industry feedback.”

The solution offered may or may not ease the process somewhat but the trucking industry have got to ask, why the NHVR were not prepared for this? Implementation has been delayed for a year in order to get the NHVR ready and up to speed. The permit application system was abandoned just before its launch at the end of 2013 because the system was not good enough. If the current system launched on February 10 was an improvement after several months of renovation, how bad was the original system?

Up until this point there has been a great deal of goodwill between trucking and NHVR. Hancock has worked tirelessly to be present at events where he could talk to the industry about the NHVR and promote its commencement. The industry have sat there listening to this and asked polite questions because they need the ideal of a genuinely national regulator to exist in order to run their businesses.

Now, the rubber has hit the road and the first thing the NHVR has had to do properly is a dismal failure. Not only are parts of the heavy haulage industry at a standstill, the rest of the trucking industry are losing confidence fast as to whether Hancock and his team can do the job at all.

Where does this leave us? At the moment, worse off. Before, the industry was dealing with a complex and unnecessarily awkward system to apply for permits which differed from state to state and caused all sorts of cross border issues. However, the situation was a lot better than we have currently, where no-one knows whether their permit application has been received, if it is being processed or when they might get a permit to move something which should have been on the road already.

Topical training from ARTSA

The Australian Road Transport Supplies Association are to run a Forensic Engineering Course for Trucks and Trailers from February 27 to 28 at Life Saving Victoria in Port Melbourne. The course is aimed at people with a professional interest in heavy truck and trailer safety and mechanical performance. Read more

Pressure builds for Cootes, but not up the chain

In an announcement, the Minister for Roads in New South Wales, Duncan Gay has said he has ordered all Cootes petrol and gas tankers operating in the state to report for a full compliance inspection. This follows a number of incidents in recent weeks.

In spot checks on the Cootes fleet last week, with 35 inspections overall at Wetherill Park and Port Botany, a number of defects were found. According to the Roads and Maritime Services these checks resulted in 17 vehicles with major defects being ordered off the road for repairs.

“These random inspections uncovered significant failures,” said Gay. “This was in addition to two incidents involving Cootes vehicles late last week which presented major defects. While we acknowledge there have been some improvements in the fleet, it is simply not good enough that in some cases we have seen repairs that don’t meet our standards during a second or third check.

“Despite four months of ongoing work with Cootes and the parent company McAleese, I have ordered all their NSW tankers be subject to Roads and Maritime compliance checks yet again, just as we did immediately after the Mona Vale tragedy. This applies to all tankers that need to operate in NSW, not just the ones registered in NSW.

“I want to assure motorists we have been carrying out extensive inspections and random checks of this fleet since the tragic double fatality on Mona Vale road last October. RMS inspectors have carried out more than 450 checks of the Cootes fleet at inspection stations and on roadsides across the state to ensure compliance with roadworthiness standards.

“As the toughest inspection and enforcement regime in the country, we have taken every possible action including putting the head of the company and the Board of Directors on notice that they are responsible for the safety and roadworthiness of this fleet. NSW will exercise its powers within the full extent of the law to make our roads safe.”

The writing would appear to be on the wall for Cootes, and their owners McAleese, the pressure is unrelenting and the NSW government talks up the chain of responsibility. However, it is interesting to note the threats from Gay are only made to those within the McAleese fold. There is no mention of going further up the chain to see if undue pressure was put on the operation.

Public anxiety about fuel tankers may be assuaged by the unfolding events, but the anxiety on the part of the trucking industry, about the chain of responsibility only being used as a stick to beat transport companies continues.

Today’s the day

We thought this day would never arrive, but it has! The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator takes the reins of regulation for the trucking industry as of this morning. This is the point at which the NHVR has to step up. It has been responsible for the NHVAS and PBS for the past year but now they are in control of many of the regulatory functions which deal with the trucks on the highway.

 

“This is a significant step in our evolution as a one-stop-shop for heavy vehicle road transport business with government,” said Richard Hancock, NHVR CEO in a statement over the weekend. “With one rule book under one regulator, we can now offer a much broader range of services previously delivered by state road authorities and the ACT Government.

 

 

“From today, operators will see streamlined and practical operations and regulation for heavy vehicle access, fatigue management and vehicle inspection standards, as well as more consistent on-road compliance and enforcement outcomes; all matters that impact on the day-to-day business of heavy vehicle operators, large and small.”

 

One of the major changes, and the cause of some of the delays in implementation, is the transferring of the responsibility for the issuing of permits to the NHVR. Transport operators wishing to apply for permits anywhere on the East Coast can now apply through the NHVR website for a permit from the start of their journey to the end without having to worry about whether the route crosses state borders.

 

Requirements for documentation carried in truck cabs will change for some with the introduction of the NHVR. As of February 10 any vehicle accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) must now carry a copy of all the relevant accreditation certificates as well as a document stating the driver has been inducted under the scheme.

 

These new requirements are to be phased in over a few months. Only warnings will be issued for non-compliance with the new rules in the first month, and in the period until August 9, warnings will be issued for the first offence, but enforcement could follow a second offence in this period.

 

By the time the NHVR has had the guernsey for six months the trucking industry will be able to assess just how well the process of change has gone. There are bound to be disappointments but the situation where the NHVR is running the show is almost certainly going to be an improvement for most of the industry on what has gone before.

 

The proof of the pudding is when the interface between truckies on the road and the enforcement agencies isn’t characterised by tickets being written for offences in one state for behaviour which would be perfectly legal just across the border. We can only dream!

NSW talking tough

Duncan Gay, NSW Roads Minister, was stating the bleeding obvious today when he talked about there being no tougher state than NSW when it comes to heavy vehicle enforcement and inspections. The statement comes in the wake of the ABC Four Corners program on Wednesday which focused around the Mona Vale crash last October to quite an extent.

 

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“We have a heavy vehicle inspection force in its own right in NSW, with more than 280 front line inspectors and investigators,” said Gay.
”They carry out more than 3 million screenings through checking stations and more than 300,000 intercepts and detailed inspections each year.
 This is the largest and most comprehensive enforcement and compliance regime in the country.”

 

He went on to list all of the facilities both fixed and mobile used by the Roads and Maritime Services in their pursuit of truck offences. The minister was also keen to point out the Cootes tanker involved in the Mona Vale incident was not under the NSW scheme.

 

“The tragedy led NSW to successfully convince the national transport and infrastructure committee known as SCOTI to undertake work to improve the maintenance regime for heavy vehicles,” said Gay. “I was pleased to take the reforms to SCOTI on behalf of NSW and secure agreement for: a review of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme to be led by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator; to bring forward the National Transport Commission’s scheduled review of heavy vehicle inspection regimes; and to expedite consideration of the introduction of mandatory requirements for electronic stability control on all new heavy vehicle trailers carrying dangerous goods.”

 

The NSW Minister brought up the chain of responsibility rules and their effectiveness in tackling mass, dimension, loading, speeding and fatigue offences but would not be drawn to include maintenance into the scope of COR. His advice seems to be suggesting the inspection and enforcement regime is being effective in preventing maintenance issues.

Simon calls for extension of COR

In response to the Four Corners TV investigation into the trucking industry ATA Chairman, David Simon, is calling for trucking business directors and executives to be held accountable for truck maintenance in the same way they are liable to chain of responsibility prosecution over fatigue and speeding offences.

 

“In tough times, it is easy for business executives to cut back on maintenance spending in the belief that it won’t affect safety, for a while,” said Simon. “There are special road transport laws, called the chain of responsibility laws, that impose safety obligations on businesses, company directors and executives. They only apply to speed management, fatigue, vehicle mass, vehicle dimensions and load restraint. They don’t apply to maintenance.

 

“The ATA and its members have called on governments to extend the chain of responsibility concept to vehicle maintenance. This would compel businesses and executives to take reasonable steps to ensure that trucks are maintained properly; for example, by ensuring that maintenance staff have adequate budgets, resources and training.”

 

Simon also wants the Federal Government to get the Australian Transport Safety Board involved by spending an extra $4.3 million to create a database of coronial recommendations. He sees this as the first step to seeing the ATSB taking a role in investigating serious truck crashes.

 

“The ATSB is known for its expertise in transport safety investigation, and is currently responsible for investigating aviation, marine and some rail accidents. The ATSB needs to be able to apply its expertise and insights to serious truck crashes as well,” said Simon.

 

These words come as one of the trucking operations highlighted by the TV program, Blenners, has seen charges laid against four of its employees over alleged fatigue breaches. The other featured operation, Cootes, is still under investigation over the Mona Vale crash last October.

 

The response from Simon echoes his initial call for these reforms at last year’s ATA Technical and Maintenance back in October. Clearly, the analysis of the situation at the time drove the ATA to try and pre-empt the result of any investigations into maintenance regimes and they are hoping the government responses to any outcry following the recent reports will take this route.

All change for the NHVAS next week

The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) comes under the umbrella of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) next Monday and trucking operators need to take note of changes which may effect them. The NHVR has posted a web page in which all of the main changes are outlined for the operator.

 

The scheme will now operate under one fee structure. Truck drivers operating under mass or maintenance management will need to have the accreditation certificate, proof of induction and an interception report book. The truck itself must display the relevant accreditation label.

 

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Operators in NSW and South Australia will now have to have current inspection certificates to add new vehicles to the scheme. Tasmania will have to begin affixing correct labels and source interception report books for the first time. The documentation required to be carried by drivers included in fatigue management schemes may change for drivers in some states.

 

The NHVR has made provisions for operators during the transition period with a letter being provided for those waiting for accreditation labels to be produced to cover up to a 21 day wait. The NHVR also sent out an email setting out the key provisions for stakeholders.

 

“In recognition of the implications for industry, transitional arrangements will be in place for the first six months,” said the email from NHVR. “The NHVR is advising transport enforcement agencies that their authorised officers should apply discretion where drivers are unable to produce the required NHVAS documentation when they are intercepted. This may include the issuing of a warning as opposed to an infringement.”

 

However the message does come with this warning, “If drivers are issued a warning and disregard it, they are likely to be subject to further enforcement action should they not comply with the HVNL requirements.”