How the atmosphere has changed in the last few months? After a bad year in 2014, when it looked like the project to get a true national legislation and regulator for the trucking industry looked in danger of stalling, and the various state ministries and regulators were rubbing their hands in schadenfreude at the misfortunes of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, we seem to be turning a corner.
What has changed? The most obvious change is the relationship between the National Transport Commission and the NHVR, illustrated by the obvious rapport between the two CEOs, Paul Retter at the NTC and Sal Petroccitto at the NHVR. This is not a relationship based on sacrificing principles to get the job done, this a mutually beneficial partnership. If the two work together, then both organisations have a better chance of being better heard by the powers that be and can head off any trouble at the pass, when the state authorities start to get on their high horse about state responsibilities.
In fact, the states, by their actions have made the task easier for the two national bodies, through being less effective than they should be at doing their jobs. The prime example of this is the current malaise about how to improve the vehicle accreditation situation, as it stands. The NTC and NHVR have been jointly tasked with coming up with suggestions to improve the credibility of accreditation, in the wake of the debacle around the Mona Vale tanker crash in 2013.
This enquiry would not have been necessary if the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme had been doing its job properly. Based on a concept with a lot of merit, the NHVAS has not delivered the goods, in terms of much improved outcomes out on the highway. The situation is still as it was, there are some very well maintained fleets out there, and there are some which fall short of the acceptable standard.
Now, it looks like the joint efforts of the NTC and NHVR will force the states to up their game and administer a more consistent and effective accreditation system. Speaking at last week’s ARTSA Heavy Vehicle Safety Summit, Paul Retter made it clear he and his team, as well as the NHVR would push this issue hard to get the desired result, whether the states liked it or not. Strong words, and the trucking industry better hope he is speaking from a position of strength, and is able to get this change up.
The roadworthiness review is in its final stages, with the NTC and NHVR going to a COAG meeting in July handing over the draft proposals for a shake up in accreditation. Retter finished his remarks about accreditation, at the Summit with these words, “If an accreditation scheme isn’t robust you either get rid of it, or you improve it as a matter of urgency.”
The improvements required are clearly laid at the door of the state authorities currently administering them.
“The changes haven’t got a lot to do with the industry, but are more about how the authorities manage the compliance and enforcement game. If we do nothing, this year 200 people lost their lives in crashes with heavy vehicles. The do nothing option is not viable.
“At the moment we have a patchwork of arrangements across this country, which reflect the Federation and the history of how things have been generated on a state basis. There’s a lack of consistency, which exists in how laws are applied on the roadside, as well as the issues of testing and inspection requirements. The lack of data is a huge issue. Our NHVAS is in need of improvement, some changes have been made to auditing arrangements already, and there’s more to come.”
Retter made it clear he understands the needs of the trucking industry, we have got too many accreditation schemes. He expects his next task to be working out how to create one robust scheme, which can be trusted and is practicable for the industry. Isn’t that what we wanted all along?
There is also progress on other fronts. At the Summit, Retter previewed a proposed change to the way the long seven axle truck and dog units, which have been appearing on our roads in bigger numbers, will be regulated. It would seem a move away from using the full PBS system, to some kind of national access notice is not too far away.