This week the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has announced the loosening of work diary restrictions for primary producers and their transport providers in Queensland. Just Queensland. Not nationwide, or for a small niche group, but for the farming industry in one state.
Good on the primary producers for getting this concession! They have obviously lobbied hard, made their case and got an exception. Nobody wants to turn down concessions which make life easier for the truckie. As of June 1, primary producers and transport companies working for them do not need to keep a record of driving hours in the work diary if they travel within 160 km of base.
Until the National Heavy Vehicle Law was introduced the exemption radius in Queensland was 200 km. However, it was vital to ensure there were consistent rules across Australia under the NHVL. So, the limit was reduced to 100 km, a distance all of the state authorities involved could feel comfortable with. Bingo, we have a nationally consistent law.
Now that consistency is gone again and other interest groups all over Australia will be looking for their exceptional case to be considered and allowed by the NHVR. Consistency should involve the NHVR going back to the states and arguing for a 160 km exemption nationally for primary produce transport. Experience tells us this would not get up.
This is a victory against red tape, primary producers do have a case especially over the vast distances involved for primary produce in Queensland. The is also a victory for pragmatism in the NHVR, developing a rule which will keep a section of the trucking industry happy. It is also a victory for the states to get special treatment for their own area.
All of those operators in Queensland, who aren’t involved with primary production and used to have a 200 km exemption, are not happy. What about the trucking operations handling primary produce just over the border in Western NSW? 100 km is the limit for them, no exceptions.
State legislators are happy because they have established the principle allowing them to work for individual exemption for their own interest groups, at the expense of the other states and a nationally consistent transport law.
What the trucking industry needs to ask itself is what do we actually want. The clarion call for decades has been for one consistent national law and a reduction in regulatory differences as you cross a state border. Is this latest change a step in the wrong direction?