The review of the new Heavy Vehicle National Law seems to have been going on forever, but when we finally see the draft law later this year or early next year, will this be a victory for common sense? Of course, there is also the possibility that it might be one of those Pyrrhic victories, the trucking industry has become used to.
By describing a victory as Pyrrhic, ‘meaning a victory at such high cost as to amount to a defeat’ (Wikipedia), the battle wasn’t worth winning because of the losses suffered, or effort taken. Okay, the trucking industry is not going to have to bury hundreds of Greek soldiers on a battlefield in Southern Italy, but we can expend a lot of energy over months and years negotiating on proposed law changes, only to find the result just wasn’t worth the effort.
The trucking industry works long and hard to convince both government and public servants that a particular strategy will improve safety, productivity and a number of other things for the country, but quite often, when it comes to the new rules or regulations being enacted those tasked with the job of making the new rules work, make it so that the new rules don’t work very well.
We have seen it before. When the idea of Performance Based Standards was initially approved, it felt like it would be the new dawn of highly productive vehicles on our roads. Instead, all of the local authorities in each area through which the new truck would pass were given a veto, and had to be consulted and give approval before the truck could use those roads.
As we know, this was a recipe for disaster. Early on in the piece, there were many stories of trucks being built and then having to sit and wait until all of the authorities involved had finally signed off on access for that truck. Admittedly, it has got easier over the years, but there are still operators who are coming up with genuinely innovative solutions only to find some pen pusher somewhere has stopped its progress.
Another victory was the acceptance by the authorities to allow access on certain routes, on which compliance could be demonstrated by tracking and monitoring those trucks using telematics devices. This victory led to the introduction of the Intelligent Access Program. The problem here was the extremely high cost of fitting such a system, making it only viable when huge productivity gains were possible.
Only now are we getting a bit of movement here, with local authorities accepting other forms of telematics monitoring, cost, at a much lower cost, in return for some more modest productivity gains.
Now the new HVNL is dangling the use of fatigue detection and mitigation devices, as well as an electronic work diary, allowing operators to run more innovative working schedules, customised to particular tasks in return for fitting this equipment.
We have already seen the problem in microcosm with the very long drawn out process of certifying even one EWD. When this process started, it was expected we would have a new EWD in three months. Now over two years later….