NHVR begins operations, but inconsistencies remain


National Heavy Vehicle Regulator begins full operations, but trucking industry will still need to deal with cross-border differences

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has started full operations, but trucking operators will still need to contend with significant cross-border differences.

The NHVR, which was previously restricted to operating in Queensland, took on responsibilities for regulations in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory today after each jurisdiction began operating under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

The reform is designed to have one national law regulating vehicles over 4.5 tonnes to lift the efficiency and productivity of the transport industry.

The regulator's responsibilities include managing access permits, work diaries and fatigue management, adding to its existing duties covering Performance Based Standards (PBS) and the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS).

Single sets of national notices, penalties, and fees for NHVR services are also in place.

"From today, operators will see streamlined and practical operations and regulation for heavy vehicle access, fatigue management and vehicle inspection standards, as well as more consistent on-road compliance and enforcement outcomes – all matters that impact on the day-to-day business of heavy vehicle operators, large and small," NHVR CEO Richard Hancock says.

However, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are continuing with their existing regulatory arrangements.

The NHVR will not take care of fatigue management in Tasmania, while the ACT has not signed up to provisions governing fatigue, the Intelligent Access Program (IAP), speeding and the NHVAS.

The states and territories will continue to have responsibility for registration and licensing, road rules, pilot and escort arrangements and laws overseeing dangerous goods.

State and territory road authorities will also retain control over vehicle examiner schemes.

"While Western Australia and the Northern Territory are yet to implement the national law, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will continue to work with them to address cross-border issues for heavy vehicle operators," federal Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss says.

 

STREAMLINED PERMIT APPLICATION PROCESS

Hancock says today also marks the commencement of the regulator’s online access management system (AMS), which the trucking industry will need to use when applying for permits.

"For the first time, operators will no longer need to apply for permits from multiple road managers. The NHVR will be a single contact for operators, dealing with the relevant state and territory road authorities and local governments to manage applications from start to finish," Hancock says.
 
"Operators only need to submit one online application and pay a $70 application fee for their entire journey, no matter how far they’re travelling."

The online system covers all access requests, including interstate or territory trips, local roads, oversize or overmass loads and special vehicle requests.

Hancock says the system comes with tools to help transport operators, such as an interactive journey planner map that displays approved heavy vehicle routes.

Applicants will be able to sign forms digitally to save them from printing documents.

Applicants can register their details with the NHVR so their information can be pre-filled on their applications.

Hancock says all applications will be stored in the NHVR’s database and operators will be kept informed of the progress of applications.

"We have built the nation’s first cross-border, cross-authority ICT system for managing heavy vehicle access to the nation’s road network.  From today, the AMS means less fuss, money and paperwork for busy operators trying to get a vehicle on the right roads," Hancock says.

 

SUPPORT FROM ATA AND TWU, DESPITE CONCERNS

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has welcomed the commencement of national regulations, with Chairman David Simon saying the industry has been pushing for them for more than 20 years.

Simon says the reform has the potential to unlock economic benefits through allowing the industry to use larger heavy vehicle combinations on more routes, improving vehicle standards and removing inconsistencies in transport laws.

But he adds that there are teething issues the industry will need to contend with.

"The national law will require truck drivers working for businesses accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme to carry more paperwork. This is due to a drafting error," Simon says.

"The ATA and its members have urged governments to fix the drafting error as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the NHVR has put in place a six-month transition period for enforcing the provision."

Simon has also expressed concern about the NHVR’s budget, which is $147.5 million for the 2015 financial year. The trucking industry will be responsible for covering $135 million of that figure.

"This is almost $60 million more than the industry is currently charged, yet part of the case for setting up the NHVR was that it would reduce duplication and the industry’s costs," Simon says.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) today expressed its support for the NHVR, but also used the opportunity to reiterate its support for the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT).

The RSRT is currently under review.

TWU Queensland Secretary Peter Biagini says while the NHVR will drive productivity gains through the removal of cross-border impediments, it will not address safety.

"Improved safety on our roads is paramount and only through safe rates for truckies will we see this," he says.

"There are far too many deaths involving trucks on our roads because of the economic pressure major companies put on drivers to keep their wheels turning.

"The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which the Coalition has signaled they will cut, has been set up to investigate the chain-of-responsibility and put the responsibility onto the clients."

But the ATA believes the regulator, which will enforce chain of responsibility laws, will improve safety in the industry.

"The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will be better placed than state road agencies to enforce the law against large industry customers that operate nationally. The NHVR also has the opportunity to work more co-operatively with the safest firms in the industry," Simon says.

The launch of the NHVR signals an end to a number of delays that have plagued it.

The regulator was initially due to begin operating on January 1 last year, but the date was pushed back to July 1. The launch was then shifted to September 1, then October 1, before the February 10 start was decided.

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