Industry flags concerns as NHVR opens its doors

Industry applauds the opening of the NHVR but raises concerns about unresolved matters

Industry flags concerns as NHVR opens its doors
Industry flags concerns as NHVR opens its doors
January 21, 2013

The transport and logistics industry and government have lined up to applaud the opening of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), but concerns have been raised about unresolved matters.

The NHVR opened today and took over responsibility for the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) and Performance Based Standards (PBS). It will take control of a greater range of heavy vehicle regulations once other jurisdictions follow Queensland in implementing national laws.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC), the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the National Transport Commission (NTC) have all welcomed the opening of the NHVR, with ATA Chairman David Simon saying it has the potential to deliver $12 billion in economic gains.

"The price of everything we buy, whether it’s milk, a computer or framing for a house includes the cost of transporting it at least some of the way by truck. Those costs are higher than they should be because the trucking industry is subject to a maze of inconsistent government regulation," Simon says.

"The NHVR will cut a straight path through this maze. Most notably, it will help local governments make better decisions about the trucks that can use their roads, which has the potential to reduce transport costs and save the economy $7 billion."

While noting the NHVR opening as an important milestone, ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff says he is concerned service level agreements between the government body and the states have not been completed.

The agreements will determine what duties jurisdictions will perform on behalf of the regulator, and Kilgariff says they should be made public so the industry knows what services jurisdictions will provide and how much they will be paid.

"ALC believes those funding services – heavy vehicle operators – have a right to access information about the services being provided to ensure they are receiving value for money and are not being used as a general revenue source to fund non-logistics related services," Kilgariff says.

He says more needs to be done to make sure the regulator delivers a national regime for administering access applications for transport routes, which are currently the responsibility of the states and territories.

"This involves finalising the necessary guidelines and regulations that will dictate when and how the owners of bridges and roads can permit heavy vehicle operators to access routes connecting freight generating areas, with air and sea ports, intermodal terminals and markets," Kilgariff says.

"Ultimately we would like to see a culture shift within government agencies at all levels, where asset owners increasingly regard their role as asset managers rather than asset protectors. Hopefully the NHVR can help facilitate this culture shift."

The states and territories are all expected to enact national laws by July this year. However, Western Australia is yet to decide if it will support the NHVR.

Simon says the next step for national regulations is for Queensland to pass an amendments package to refine the national laws. It says the NHVR must also push on with its forward work program, which addresses outstanding matters such as executive liability provisions.

The opening of the NHVR followed yesterday’s opening of the National Rail Safety Regulator. It has been given responsibility for rail safety in South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. The regulator is due to extend to Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia before the end of 2013.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says rail operators will now pay only a single annual accreditation fee for all operations.

He says there will be a single national safety compliance approach to replace the inconsistent process of multiple audits and auditors which exist under the various state-based regulators.

Furthermore, a nationally consistent rail communication and signalling system will replace the 22 existing systems.

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