The whole issue of how roadworthiness in trucks can be maintained is undergoing scrutiny, at the moment. The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a regulatory impact statement (RIS) to the industry and is calling for submissions in response.
The document lays out a number of options for a future roadworthiness regime and runs through the pros and cons of the suggestions made. In fact, of the four options only two would seem practical and the choice between the two appears to be how much the government and industry are willing to spend on improving the current situation.
This review is running separately to the changes in auditing procedures for the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) which are to come into effect later this year. This particular measure was seen as more urgent and fast-tracked through the system, in a reaction to fatal accidents involving accredited trucks.
“Frontier Economics have estimated that over the next 10 years heavy vehicle crashes would be expected to have a total cost Net Present Value of $14.2 billion,” says the RIS. “Of this, between $0.57 and $2.4 billion can be attributed to road crashes due to heavy vehicle unroadworthiness. Including congestion and related costs of heavy vehicle breakdowns it is estimated that the total cost of heavy vehicle crashes and breakdowns, attributable to heavy vehicle unroadworthiness is between $2.3 and $4.2 billion over the next 10 years.”
Of the options laid out, number one is the status quo, to do nothing new, and the fourth is to go to annual inspections for all, with tightened up procedures, rejected as expensive with no overall benefit, in money terms.
This leaves options two and three, both of which the report suggests will be effective. Two improves the current system with little extra cost, three takes the process further, costs more, but is estimated to bring greater benefits.
Option two sees a review of the Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual (NHVIM) taking place. At the same time the regulator will develop harmonised education and training for authorised officers, operators and drivers. This will include creating new registered codes of practice and guidelines, including published roadworthiness guidance material.
These measures are reckoned to help government and industry develop a shared understanding of high priority roadworthiness issues (such as brakes and steering), inspection procedures and processes for issuing and clearing defects. The report characterises this option as using existing Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and state regulations in a more targeted way to achieve its goal. If carried through it should see more consistent inspections nationwide.
Option three requires amendment to the HVNL to allow the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to have the power to nominate particular trucks to undergo scheduled inspections. The NHVR would be required to develop criteria to assess which trucks posed the greatest risk and, therefore, should be inspected regularly, and how often.
This risk-based approach should result in no change in the overall number of inspections, simply see inspection resources being retargeted and redeployed. The report gives an example, if only heavy vehicles over 15 years of age were to be inspected, this would lead to a decrease in the number of inspections conducted in NSW, Queensland and the NT and an increase in the other jurisdictions.
Option three also includes regulatory changes to the NHVAS, including making maintenance accreditation a pre-requisite for other accreditation modules, and the power to mandate certain aspects of accreditation for some types of operators.
To make an online submission visit the NTC homepage, select ‘Submissions’ from top navigational menu and go from there.
Alternatively, mail your comments to:
Att: Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness Program Manager,
National Transport Commission,
Level 15/628 Bourke Street,