The report published by the Productivity Commission this week spends a lot of its time and effort talking about following through with reform properly. The report, the ‘Draft Report into National Transport Regulatory Reform’ seems to be both thorough and insightful, all of the stakeholders seem to get both congratulated for their good moves and wrapped over the knuckles for their mistakes.
Overall, the report says that the ongoing reforms around trucking have been effective overall, but on the negative side of the ledger, there are other issues, which we all know exist, but don’t have a solution for all of them in the foreseeable future.
Yes, the national laws are being enforced with more consistency than they have in the past and this is helping the industry and its productivity.
However, the fact that Western Australia and the Northern Territory is not involved is a problem and will remain a problem until a solution is found. Reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law may be able to find the form of words with which all of the states and territories can live in peaceful coexistence, but they’re not many signs of that at the moment.
The Commission also points to the fact that the process of bringing all the enforcement officers on the roadside under the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator umbrella has been slow, but it does acknowledge the progress made so far in South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Victoria.
It also highlights a problem which looks unlikely to disappear any time soon, and that is how some of the state governments introduce derogations into, what is supposed to be, a national law, for their own purposes. The report says these ‘create unjustifiable compliance burdens for businesses’. Nobody in the trucking industry is going to argue with them on this.
In one paragraph the Productivity Commission proves to be a master of understatement, when it states the ‘approval process is for access to local roads can still be inconsistent, slow and lacking transparency’.
It also points out that the productivity improvements and efficiencies which were promised at the beginning of this process have not been achieved. In many cases, the issues around crossing state borders have just changed in nature while decreasing somewhat in severity.
On a major point for the trucking industry, the commission don’t see any safety improvement which can be identified as stemming from the reforms so far. It does, however, point out that there are significant opportunities for the government, the regulator and the industry to improve productivity and safety. Let’s hope this is a call to arms for all concerned to buckle down and get the job done.
Also on the agenda, and we know it’s coming, are changes in road user charging. This will happen, and when it does happen the trucking industry does need to engage all of the way through the process to ensure that we do not getting to a situation where unfair charging calculations adversely affect sectors of industry and hinder improvements in productivity.