Committee backs passage of NHVR amendments

Queensland parliamentary committee recommends Parliament pass amendments to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

By Brad Gardner | February 11, 2013

A Queensland parliamentary committee has backed the passage of amendments to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), but has raised concerns about the state’s decision to tinker with work diary requirements.

The Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee has recommended Parliament pass the Heavy Vehicle National Law Amendment Bill, which is designed to fix policy and technical matters unresolved when legislation to create the NHVR passed last year.

The Bill amends policies relating to Performance Based Standards, road access decisions and penalties and brings the NHVR into line with executive liability provisions set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

However, the committee has questioned if Queensland’s decision to tighten the requirement for when truck drivers need to maintain a work diary will be too much of a burden on small operators.

Unlike other states, Queensland exempted operators working within 200km of their base from filling out a work diary when fatigue management laws began in 2008. Under national regulations, Queensland agreed to wind it back to a 100km radius to bring the state into line with other jurisdictions.

"The Committee is concerned that the requirement…may not be flexible enough for smaller operators required to travel slightly longer distances, as is often required in large states such as Queensland," the committee notes in its report on the Bill.

It wants the NHVR to use its power under the Bill to exempt drivers from work diary requirements for up to three years if it believes doing so will not jeopardise safety and if it considers the 100km requirement will be too restrictive.

"The Committee encourages the Regulator to use this exemption power where ever possible to ensure maximum flexibility in the work diary requirements and to ensure unnecessary administrative burden is minimised," the committee says.

The report also recommends all governments work together on any further amendments to national regulations to ensure cross-border consistency is maintained.

"The Committee believes the Queensland Government should make every attempt to assist in negotiating a national position before making any unilateral amendments," it says.

During public hearings late last year and last month on the Bill, the committee was told work was underway between the NHVR and livestock transport sector on the development of a new advanced fatigue management (AFM) module.

The revamped scheme, which will provide templates for operators to use, is designed to do away with the high cost and administrative burden that plagues the existing model.

The NHVR intends to run a pilot in the first half of this year and says it will offer similar flexibility to the fatigue management scheme in Western Australia.

Drivers in Western Australia are permitted to work up to 17 hours a day for a maximum of three days before being required to take a 24-hour rest.

"The Committee supports the development of work and rest hour templates such as the proposed livestock transport template which aim to provide increased flexibility for transport operators with specific requirements," it says in its report.

Insurer Suncorp appeared before the committee during a public hearing to air its concerns about the impact national regulations will have on compulsory third party (CTP) insurance.

Suncorp representative Jon Vallance told the committee national regulations will lead to "scheme shopping", whereby operators will be able to hunt around for the best CTP deal even if their vehicles are not registered in that state.

Vallance says CTP for a prime mover and trailer can range from $240 up to $2,600 depending on which state the operator is in.

"So a smart operator might want to move all the vehicles to the state with the lowest CTP scheme fees. You will note that the risk has not changed. The vehicle will still be located in the expensive state. It is just that it is being registered or notionally garaged in the cheap state," Vallance told the committee.

"The current law at the moment is that you are supposed to be registered in the state you are garaged in and there is a fine if you do not do that. Under a national scheme that all goes. There will be no policing of the garaging address. It is just going to affect your CTP premium."

In its report, the committee says Suncorp’s concerns will be the subject of continued consultation with the Department of Transport and Main Roads and the NHVR.

Queensland is the only state to have passed legislation creating the regulator. Other jurisdictions are due to pass the relevant legislation to establish the NHVR on July 1. Western Australia has not yet decided if it will support the reforms.

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