The whole process of moving regulation of the trucking industry onto a national basis has been a long slow grind. Real results ending the ridiculous cross border issues we meet every day have been hard won and often quite small victories.
One of the continuing bugbears which gets drivers and operators seeing red is the total lack of consistency when a truck is inspected. A truck can travel all across the country being checked on a regular basis,and being passed as a fit vehicle to be on the road. It will then arrive in state X and on the first inspection get pinged for a major breach.
The review into the roadworthiness system being conducted, jointly, by the National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator looks like it might, finally, be getting some traction.
The haste of the review, to begin with, was probably about something being seen to be done in the wake of the Mona Vale tanker crash. However, the noises coming out of the process seem to be suggesting we will see the kind of reform the industry has been crying out for over many years.
The kind of things, like a precise national definition of defects and whether they are minor or major will make a massive difference. There should be no more excuse for the kind of nitpicking which has been evident in roadside checks in the past.
A new process for rectifying defects which is accessible nationally will also be a godsend if it gets up. Often a fault found to be a defect can be cured quite quickly, but it can take much longer to get a defect notice lifted.
A national standard for inspection procedures will also go a long way in reducing the angst of many operations teams. If you understand how a inspection type works, and it is consistent nationally, you can set up the fleet to be compliant.
Changes to the way accreditation audits are carried out and administered has been flagged quite a lot in the last year, so we can expect a number of changes there. In fact, the way auditors are selected has already been changed as a matter of urgency.
Some of the reforms a little further over the horizon have also already been talked about. Extending the chain of responsibility to maintenance issues is coming, we just can’t be sure when. Changing the basis of when inspections are required, moving the criteria to a risk based assessment has been clearly outlined by both Paul Retter, CEO of the NTC and Sal Petroccitto, CEO of the NHVR. It will be with us, when they work out how to do it. Also down the track is a national registration system.
We have been here before, of course, and been disappointed with the results. These latest reforms do look like they are going to get up and the states will have to accept them, one way or another. It really does look there is a chink of light at the end of a very long and gloomy tunnel.