NHVAS to be improved under national regulator

'Improved' NHVAS to be run by federal regulator, acting as chain of responsibility safety net

October 15, 2009

Management of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation System (NHVAS) will be handed to the new federal regulator once it is established, setting up the program and other industry schemes as a line of defence in chain of responsibility.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) says transport ministers have approved recommendations from a strategic review of NHVAS, which called for improving the program under the management of the new national heavy vehicle regulator to be established in 2011.

NHVAS sets auditable national standards for maintaining trucks and buses, loading heavy vehicles to legal mass limits and preventing driver fatigue.

"Bringing together operational expertise in running NHVAS and sharing information across states and territories under a single national body will deliver better road safety outcomes," says Dr Neil Wong, the NTC's Senior Manager of Safety and Environment.

Wong says transport operators who comply with NHVAS standards benefit from increased business flexibility, reduced operating costs and fewer crashes.

The beefed-up NHVAS program won't override industry schems like TruckSafe, which Wong says go further in managing driver health, training, record keeping and vehicle speed.

He says customers are increasingly contracting accredited transport operators to help demonstrate compliance with chain of responsibility laws. Further recommended amendments to those laws would allow both industry and NHVAS standards to be recognised as prima facie evidence of taking ‘reasonable steps’, he says.

"If you step up and do the right thing your efforts should be acknowledged by governments and other parties in the supply chain," Wong says.

Consultation with industry, unions and governments also identified the need for tougher auditor standards and an update of mass and maintenance standards. Wong claims higher standards will improve the integrity of NHVAS and support a level playing field for operators.

The NTC argues the long-term role of accreditation schemes should be considered holistically as part of a broader national compliance strategy. This will consider developing a market for safety in the transport industry including incentives and sanctions as well as the current telematics strategy.

The Commission will progress the recommendations through the development of its future work plan.

Research shows that transport operators who manage their safety risks through TruckSafe and NHVAS have 50 to 75 percent less crashes, while reducing the severity of crashes that do occur.

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