Toowoomba beckons as national regs clear first hurdle

Queensland will consider basing National Heavy Vehicle Regulator in Toowoomba instead of Brisbane as legislation to create national regulations passes

Toowoomba beckons as national regs clear first hurdle
Toowoomba beckons as national regs clear first hurdle
By Brad Gardner | August 24, 2012

Queensland will look at switching the location of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) as legislation to create national regulations clears its first hurdle.

In a show of bi-partisanship, Queensland politicians of all stripes yesterday voted to pass the Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill, which will establish the NHVR and consolidate various state and territory transport laws into one body of law.

The Bill's passage now shifts focus to the other states and territories which, except for Western Australia, are expected to pass similar legislation to end cross-border regulatory inconsistencies. Jurisdictions are also due to pass an amendment bill to resolve outstanding issues.

The NHVR will take control ofl key areas of heavy vehicle regulation, such as registration, permits, gazettes, chain of responsibility and fatigue management. The NHVR will begin on January 1, 2013 and is expected to be fully operational in July.

Queensland Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, who started the legislative process last year when Labor was in power, wants Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson to consider basing the NHVR in Toowoomba, which is a key freight hub west of Brisbane.

"Toowoomba is an area that has a lot of transportation. Many of the vehicles come down the range to the port. It would send a very good signal to a regional community that the host regulator was being based not in the Brisbane CBD but actually in a regional area," Palaszczuk says.

She also suggested basing the regulator in other regional centres, such as Rockhampton.

Emerson, who says the Bill will cut red tape and replace eight separate regulators, has agreed to take Palaszczuk’s suggestions on board, including going for a ride in a truck to get an industry perspective.

"I acknowledge the contribution from the member for Inala and will certainly consider her suggestions," he says.

Emerson labelled the Bill’s passage "historic" and says national regulations will benefit vehicles operating across borders.

"Cross-border confusion and delays will become a thing of the past under the new regulator," he says.

"The national law will bring clarity, safety and productivity improvements to the entire heavy vehicle industry."

Pumicestone MP Lisa France says existing state-based laws are hindering transport operators. During the debate on the Bill, she highlighted the trouble Seiler’s Transport must go through when carting pigs from Kingaroy to New South Wales.

Existing Queensland regulations permit the company to carry 50 tonnes but NSW limits the weight of a truck to 42.5 tonnes because the state does not have a livestock volume loading scheme in place.

"In real terms, this is 60 pigs less each trip to New South Wales and potentially an extra load, costing the farmer some $3,000 to get the remaining pigs to market," France says.

"What does it do with the extra pigs when it gets across the border if it is overloaded? Is it to leave them on the side of the road?"

Trevor Ruthenberg, who holds the seat of Kallangur, says the varying rules and regulations across borders are imposing annual training costs of $17.7 million on the industry.

He says the cost of complying with multiple regulations acts as a disincentive to companies expanding their operations.

Ruthenberg wants the NHVR, once it is established, to address "with some urgency" the introduction of electronic work diaries. A trial of the new technology to provide an alternative to paper-based work diaries is currently underway.

"Many of today’s new trucks collect data that would significantly allow a logbook to be electronically maintained," he says.

"I think if we are looking at efficiencies, effectiveness and economic benefit, this would be a great way to use reliable proven data because it would not only help ensure that this information is collected accurately and without delay but also help law enforcement in its task."

Australian Trucking Association Chairman David Simon says the NHVR will be able to deliver consistent enforcement across the country and that national regulations will improve safety and reduce red tape.

"Under the current laws in many states, operators have to carry every notice and permit relating to the routes they use in every single one of their trucks. In my company, that’s a 5kg bag of legal documents that has to be carried in every vehicle and constantly updated," Simon, who runs Simon National Carriers, says.

"The national laws will slash this paperwork burden. Operators will only need to carry special permits that apply to a specific vehicle. Unless a special decision is made, they will not need to carry notices that apply to every truck that might want to use a route."

Federal Parliament has also passed legislation to create a new national marine safety regulator, while South Australia earlier this year enacted a bill to establish the National Rail Safety Regulator.

"For the 111 years since federation, Australia has suffered the inefficiencies of competing jurisdictions. The [Federal] Government’s historic transport reforms put an end to this and will deliver $30 billion in flow-on benefits for the nation over the next 20 years," Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says.

"Truckies will have the freedom to drive across eight Australian states and territories under the one rule book, ending a huge compliance burden."

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