One of Paul Retter, the former National Transport Commission CEO’s big projects was the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and he discussed the implications of the results of that review coming up with a new and improved NHVL at the NatRoad Conference.
The development of the current law was beset with problems as the law makers tried to devise a compromise between competing interests from the various states involved, all defending their own turf. The situation has since calmed with the introduction of some rationality, with the NHVR working across state borders.
“The current law does not reflect best practice,” said Paul. “It is onerous for industry, it is incredibly difficult for the regulator to administer, it’s not truly national, it’s overly prescriptive and it’s complicated to navigate. The HVNL is better than what preceded it, but it was by necessity a compromise.
“The Government want closer alignment with the workplace health and safety legislation. They want improved safety as a key outcome. We need to have a more consistent rule book, we need one rule. It’s a chance to deal with the derogations which some states added to the law. These lead to a lack of clarity on the roadside. It’s also a great opportunity to get Western Australia and the Northern Territory to join in this national law.”
The process of developing the new law will run through 2019 with suggested policy changes going to the Australian Transport Ministers at their two meetings during the year. This will be followed by a drafting process in 2020.
Paul also expressed a preference for the future development of a single accreditation scheme which could have enough flexibility in its modules to be able to cover anyone in the industry who chooses to take it up.
Sal Petroccitto was also supportive of the plans to renew the HVNL and was broadly supportive of Paul Retter’s comments.
“The trucking industry over the last five years is a $35 billion industry,” said Sal. “There is 810,000 kilometres of road, most of which is set within local government. We are dealing with a very complex system.
“Just dealing with 800 road managers, that in itself creates some problems. These are problems that operators experience in their day-to-day work. While we are transitioning the functions across there is still a lot of work to be done. We are breaking down barriers which have been around for many many years.
“My view is we have made more progress over the last four years then we had in the last 50 years. Some of you will say, not quick enough, but I think we are well and truly underway. Supply chains are becoming longer and government barriers are coming down, they are becoming less and less relevant. But there is a need to push through the obstacles that still exist.”
The NHVR is now going through a process it calls ‘National Transition’. Two states have already transferred responsibility for regulating the trucking industry to the NHVR, South Australia and Tasmania. The next two jurisdictions to make the move will be Victoria and the ACT. Victoria should be in by October 2019, with the ACT coming across around the same time.
“In 2020, we move into the big state and there is work already underway with the Roads and Maritime Services to transition across,” said Sal. “Post 2020, we will move into the final state which is Queensland. We are still working very closely with the Western Australia and Northern Territory governments. While they are still not part of the law, I believe the review of the HVNL how gives us an excellent opportunity to understand their issues.”
The NHVR is also working on the development of better IT systems to administer the trucking industry and to use the data gained effectively and achieve better regulatory outcomes down the track. One of the main advantages will be that all of the data about the trucking industry is available in one place for all of the states. As of October, operators will be able to see all of the vehicles for which they have registrations, no matter what state they have been registered in.
“Four years ago when I walked into this role there were 115,000 permits being issued by various jurisdictions, this year it will be 65,000,” said Sal. “The law still requires us to issue permits, but we should be moving to a point where access to this network is as of right.
“The way the review of the HVNL tackles some of the complexities around the role of the road manager as opposed to the role of an agency that facilitates the process, I think, provides us with some really serious opportunities to address the productivity improvements that can come from a more open network.”
On the whole, Sal continues to be positive about the prospects of the NHVR and the policy around it becoming the united national entity, which was envisaged at the founding of the regulator.
“I am still comfortably confident we will become a truly national regulator,” said Sal. “And the opportunity for the law review to look at WA and the Territory, I think the timing is right and that discussion can progress.”
Further speakers filled in the gaps and looked at issues which may be facing the trucking industry down the road. See a separate article reporting the discussion by Gary Mahon, Queensland Trucking Association CEO, about the prospect of the imposition of mass distance location charging on the industry and the cases. There was also a major announcement about driver training reported in the news section of this magazine.