Many in the industry may have suspected there was something fishy about the tsunami of permit applications which hit the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator on February 10, the first day of operation of the national permitting system. Anecdotal evidence seemed to point to a slowing down of the permit processing system at a state level in the lead up to the handover of responsibility to the NHVR in Brisbane. However, nobody was willing to put their head above the parapet and suggest such skullduggery took place.
Then up pops the ever reliable Duncan Gay, NSW Roads Minister, to imply some jurisdictions may have used this ploy to disrupt the smooth transition over to a national system in an effort to keep state control of the heavy vehicle regulatory system. The disarming Mr Gay tells us, the RMS in NSW would have had nothing to do with this kind of behaviour and have a faultless record.
Speaking at the Livestock and Bulk Carriers Association of NSW last weekend, Gay was talking to a friendly audience who have seen him come up with reforms in recent years to give both livestock and bulk transporters some real productivity gains. The permit bungles have affected the sector as well, but the swift return of responsibility for permits to the RMS has quickly decreased the backlog in the state.
“The national regulator, it’s something we need, it’s something important,” said Gay at the LBCA Conference. “We have had a hiccup upfront. Can I congratulate the staff at the RMS, having given that load away, our state was in a better position than most when it went over. Some weren’t nearly as efficient as us, they had stopped processing about a month before, which was totally disingenuous, which helped create this problem.”
The NHVR may not have been properly prepared, as of February 10, to meet the permit challenge. A staged, sector by sector, introduction may have been a better option, to migrate the trucking industry across from one system to the other. The thing is it is hard to discern who was to blame because, apparently, some of the states were being ‘disingenuous’, but not NSW, of course.
There is clearly not much goodwill between some in the state transport bureaucracies and the new boys and girls running the NHVR. They need to sort themselves out pretty quickly. The trucking industry can’t sit around waiting, with loads needing permits to move, for the regulators to work through their territorial squabbles.
Yet again, transport operators are working in an inconsistent and unstable regulatory environment, until this is properly sorted out. It is not good for business to have an increase in uncertainty. The NHVR project has to succeed and someone needs to bang some heads together, make the transition to national permitting and take the petty politics between bureaucrats out of the equation.