Well it is all over, the Coalition Government has been returned to power and now the transport industry can get back to business as usual. Or so it thinks. For the trucking industry, there were concerns about the return of some form of RSRT, although in recent speeches, Labor’s Senator Glenn Sterle had been working hard to allay fears of a return to the chaotic scenes during the last Labor government.
This is no time to sit back on our laurels as the road ahead is not clear or without the possibility of a series of major problems for the trucking industry. Now is the time to really buckle down and concentrate on a number of issues which have proved to be ongoing and difficult ,and constituting a serious risk to the trucking industry being able to move forward as it would wish.
There are plenty of irons in the fire which need to be sorted out. Perhaps we can look forward to a period of relative stability during which some of those problems can be ironed out.
The main pressing issue at the moment is the Reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law and the complex process through which the National Transport Commission is developing it. It is important for the industry to take time to look at and reply to all of the issues papers as they are released during this year. If we can get a good sensible HVNL in place, a lot of other good things could follow in its wake. Get it wrong and we are back to square one, fighting against a legislative nightmare.
The HVNL process could also help with one of the other ongoing and continual problems, the differences in regulations between states. If the NTC are smart, it should be possible to come up with some form of wording with which the eastern states and the western states could feel comfortable. If this is possible and we could have a genuinely national law and not the mishmash we currently have to live with.
Fatigue regulations are also being looked at and a new approach to this issue is being sought. The development of fatigue regulations and policy will always be a very tricky area. It is very difficult to balance the requirements of experts and the regulators who have to police the fatigue rules against the needs of the trucking industry customers and the ever-present tyranny of distance.
Another area of concern for many in the industry is that of access and a consistent approach on the part of those managing our roads to what kind of vehicle, at what kind of weight and what form of configuration can use each and every road in Australia. The process of improving the way access is regulated is making progress, but the progress is exceedingly slow. The inertia and intransigence within some members of the local and state government apparatus need to be addressed and solved.
These are just a few of the issues facing the trucking industry. While a few sectors of the industry appear to be quite buoyant at the moment as evidenced by the continuing strength in truck and trailer sales across the country, some sectors are struggling but they are used to the cyclical trends.
This is probably our moment while the political scene is relatively stable, segments of the regulation of the industry are moving in the right direction, reviews are going on into how the industry is regulated and there seems to be evidence that many of those representing the industry in the corridors of power are choosing to take a more unified and coordinated approach to getting something done in Canberra and the state capitals.
Let’s hope this positive state of affairs continues. If in five years time we are looking at a rational and usable Heavy Vehicle National Law plus a sensible way to gain access to freight routes, then real progress will have been made. Fingers crossed!