The latest issues paper has been released by the National Transport Commission in the long winded process to completely rebuild from the ground up the Heavy Vehicle National Law, and it seems to be calling for common sense and rationality? Never!
It is good to see a process like this looking for the kind of rationality our trucking industry has been crying out for over many years, but, unfortunately, after we go through this consultation and discussion period the whole thing has to go through the sausage machine of the bureaucracies of the State authorities and this is where common sense is likely to disappear.
This latest paper, issued earlier this week, is all about vehicle standards and safety and it sets out what we need to get from a regime in this area. We need to encourage safer vehicles on our roads, there needs to be effective maintenance and inspection of those vehicles, it looks for effective identification, repair and clearance defects and, most importantly of all, a commonsense approach to minor breaches.
I think I am very safe in saying that the entire trucking industry would sign up to something which gave them these four simple attributes in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, looking back on this in 18 months time, when we do have a new HVNL this may look like and airy fairy wish list rather than some good solid basic principles on which to base the regulation of vehicle standards and safety.
The trucking industry has until August 30 to get its submissions into the NTC and lay out some practical suggested solutions to make this system work for everybody involved. Now is the time to get involved and get something down on paper which may be used by the NTC in developing its final proposed bill in 2020.
Safer vehicles are quite often also more productive and innovative, especially if they have gone through something like the Performance Based Standards system. In fact, this is probably now the time to talk about the frustrations within the trucking industry with the current PBS regime. We all know the basic idea is quite a good one, but in practice it has given us great safety of productivity gains in very specific areas and has not been effective across the wider gamut of the trucking industry.
The aim of this process is also to simplify the administration and enforcement of the HVNL. Then maybe some of you reading this who would suggest the simplification is necessary to enable the roadside enforcement officers to actually understand the law correctly. The fact of the matter is any simplification of the law will make it easier for people in the trucking industry to comply with the rules and also easier for the enforcement arm to do their job properly and not ping trucks for irrelevant non-compliance.
This simplification is probably at the crux of this entire process. To get real simplification of the rules also introduces a good deal of rationality into the whole area of truck regulation.
We have to believe that it will be possible to make some changes which will help the trucking industry face the increased freight task and the need for much improved productivity in the coming decades. We really do need that common sense and rationality as soon as possible. Just don’t hold your breath!