The plan is to introduce a new Heavy Vehicle National Law, once the National Transport Commission has reviewed it, but wouldn’t it be better to go about fixing the real problem? The statements by industry stakeholders show little faith the new law will solve our current issues.
Instead, we have calls to take the process away from the NTC, as if they are the problem. In fact, the NTC’s problem is they are the punching bag in between the trucking industry and the real problem.
The process of going through a review of the current law and then the writing of a whole new law is going to be fraught with many difficulties. If we don’t face up to them now, we have little chance of getting the kind of legislative regime the trucking industry needs in order to function in the future.
The NTC will be able to examine the current set-up and dig down enough to come up with some valid changes which will improve productivity, transparency and really create the kind of environment in which transport can thrive and not act like a sheet anchor slowing potential economic growth.
The consultations with industry will see familiar problems brought out and duly noted. The irrationality of some of the existing restrictions will be be clearly stated and clearly seen. So far, so good.
The next stage of the process will see the smart young people in the back of the NTC office come up with some really useful ideas to make the whole thing run more smoothly. The proposals will be well-directed and appear to hold the solutions to some of the more hard-to-solve problem from which we suffer.
This is the point at which the NTC staffers will start to bang their heads against a brick wall. When the proposals are taken out to the various transport ministries in the states and run by the department in Canberra, the horse trading will begin. There will be outright no answers, some possiblies and a few probablies.
None of the proposals are likely to remain unscathed. Each and every positive change will be modified in some way and often to the point where the proposal becomes nullified, pointless. Good ideas will be thrown away to suit the prejudices of the many and varied roads and transport authorities across the states.
Unfortunately for the meat in the sandwich, the NTC, this is not going to go well. The transport industry stakeholders will be pushing hard, but the state bureaucracies will be pushing back harder.
The NTC have to take into account the views of the states because whatever beast they finally come up with, they have to present it to the Transport and Infrastructure Council at one of its bi-annual meetings. If the NTC have not got the state transport mandarins on board the ministers will vote it down and the whole process was a waste of time.
Of course, many of these issues could be solved by a firm hand at federal government level banging the heads of the state ministers and getting other stakeholders onside to get some real pressure on the states. Unfortunately, those in charge in Canberra seem to be too engrossed in stabbing each other in the back to make the sorts of changes needed.