The headlines out of the recent meeting of the Transport and Infrastructure Council in Launceston in Tasmania were all about the issues the ministers needed to be seen doing something about, tightening up vehicle maintenance accreditation.
For the state governments there needs to be a number of statements and initiatives in place to demonstrate they are doing something about these terrible trucking companies who are going around with defective brakes on their monster trucks.
In fact, there were some progressive moves being made apart from the tacit approval of the direction the joint National Heavy Vehicle Regulator/National Transport Commission plans to change the way auditors are selected National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme audits and tighten up the business rules involved in the NHVAS.
There was some big picture thinking going on, by the federal and state transport ministers, with the decision to pull together the first ever maps of the key freight routes of Australia. This begs the question, what on earth were they basing spending and policy decisions on before, if there was no clear picture of the way freight moves around the country?
Individual state governments have been coming up, in recent years, with analysis of freight flows as part of their long term freight logistics plans, but it seems the joint efforts of the NHVR and NTC have, finally, got some traction in making it a national picture and not a fragmented state-based jig-saw.
The meeting did open up a window of opportunity for the nitpicking state road engineers and regulators to delay the arrival of a rational national freight network. The principle of ‘as of right’ access for B-doubles to the key freight routes was agreed to, but where it is not already the case, it will be reviewed on a case by case by case basis by the relevant jurisdictions. Plenty of room for delaying tactics there.
The principle of increasing access for high productivity vehicles was agreed to by the ministers and this should become a real positive for the industry. The two requirements are for the truck to meet PBS levels of performance and the route to be deemed suitable. The PBS system seems to be working in a national framework, we just need the proper classification of freight routes, which is coming along, slowly but surely. At least we will have the NHVR on the front line working with the difficult jurisdictions to make it work.
The permit situation seems to be gradually untangling itself, with 500 gazetted and pre-approved routes coming online since last February, taking the pain out of some tasks. PBS approvals was also seen as a method of reducing pressure on the permits system, making it easier for it to go truly national.
This leaves us with the contentious road worthiness program. The meeting agreed to the proposals put before it by the joint NHVR/NTC working group and the improvements should be tangible if there is enough thought put into the implementation of the new rules and procedures.
So, at the end of the day, the transport industry gets what it always gets. New tighter regulations which will definitely happen and the promise of a rosier, more productive future. Don’t worry though, the most important outcome was the opportunity for the state transport ministers to look tough in standing up against the rogue truckies. Job done!