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.

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Author: Tim Giles

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