According to the Australian Trucking Association it is in broad agreement with views expressed at the National Transport Commission’s Brisbane workshop on access, that access legislation does not need reform. The problem lies in the way regulations are being enforced.
The ATA admits this was a minority viewpoint, but reckons it does warrant consideration. It asks the question, if the Heavy Vehicle National Law legislation has been a success in relation to access, where are the economic gains that were envisioned?
In 2011, the HVNL was predicted to deliver up to $12.4 billion in economic benefits. Most of the benefits were to be made in gains from harmonising restricted access vehicles, higher mass limits and intelligent access program regulation. Implicit in the benefit calculation was the assumption that the new decision-making framework would promote access.
“However, the results have fallen significantly short of these commendable objectives,” says the ATA submission to the HVNL review panel. “The productivity of the transport, postal and warehousing sector has fallen steadily since the law came into force in 2014. The legislation has failed to deliver what was intended. It can hardly be described as a success.”
The NTC issues paper also summarises a number of key issues with the current system, including:
- The current system results in too many permits, delays for operators and inconsistent outcomes
- Even when journeys are low risk or routes pre-approved, where risks are already known, operators still need to apply for permits
- Matching vehicle classes to networks for access is complicated. Road managers do not necessarily have expertise with heavy vehicle classifications, which can complicate and protract access decisions
- The decision-making process is prescriptive and inflexible. There are many opportunities for parties to lose sight of or delay a permit application
- The access decision-making process challenges road manager resources and they are unable to delegate this role
- Only the NHVR’s access decisions are subject to external review. There is no provision for external review of decisions made by road managers.
- There are challenges outside the HVNL, including slow third-party approvals and inconsistent pilot and escort arrangements.
The ATA recommends that access decisions under the HVNL should be reformed, having failed to deliver the intended economic gains that were projected in 2011 assessment of the new laws.
More productive heavy vehicle access is a critical public policy goal that would benefit Australian consumers and businesses. Better access lowers freight costs, which ultimately means more local jobs.
The ATA asserts, Governments need to deliver more productive heavy vehicle access to lower costs and boost local jobs. The association’s statement suggests the reforms to deliver these gains for the community should include:
- Delivering parallel and integrated reforms to improve the access network and supply-side road funding decisions.
- Faster access decisions that underpin the need to enable freight deliveries in a modern, on-demand economy.
- Reducing the number of permits for access decisions, with the priority for access decisions to be provided in clear, accessible as-of-right networks.
- Ensuring access decisions are consistent, justified and subject to external review.
- Fixing the disconnect between land use planning and providing productive heavy vehicle access.