Heavy vehicle permit reform in the sights of NatRoad boss

By: Brad Gardner


Chris Melham to propose faster turnaround times for heavy vehicle permit applications.

Heavy vehicle permit reform in the sights of NatRoad boss
NatRoad CEO Chris Melham believes permit applications should be approved within 24 to 48 hours.

 

NatRoad may soon launch a new campaign to pressure state and territory governments to drastically reduce the time taken to process heavy vehicle permit applications.

NatRoad CEO Chris Melham will today present a motion to the group’s board requesting its support for turnaround times of one to two days.

Jurisdictions operating under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) are currently allowed to take up to 28 days to approve permits, but attendees at a recent NatRoad-organised meeting in South Australia argued for the allowance to be amended.

"Basically they said there’s no reason why the road managers should not be able to turn that around in 24 to 48 hours," Melham told ATN.

"I have a NatRoad board meeting on December 10 and I’ll be taking that as a motion to the NatRoad board. And I’m hopeful coming out of that meeting we’ll start our representation to get that 28-day [outer limit] out of the system."

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), which enforces the HVNL, last month revealed the amount of time state and local governments were taking to process permits.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto warned that slow processing times were threatening the trucking industry’s survival and that the 28-day allowanced needed to be looked at. 

Melham, who will next year join the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) as its new CEO, has accused road agencies of waiting until the last minute to approve permits.

"They’re sitting on them. There is a pile of permits sitting on their desks," he says.

"Those road managers in some cases are reading that provision of the law as a KPI to say they don’t have to move on an application for 28 days."

Trucking operators travelling intrastate need to lodge permits with the relevant jurisdiction. Those crossing borders must send their application to the NHVR, which then deals with jurisdictions on the operator's behalf.

Petroccitto says the NHVR is taking about one day to get permits out the door. The process hits a wall when it arrives with state and local road managers, with approvals averaging 21 days.

Melham says greater focus needs to be put on state and territory transport departments to find out why permits are not being approved faster.

"We’ve got to turn our attention on other participants other than the NHVR to fix this problem…It’s not the NHVR’s fault," he says.

"Ministers should drill into the operations of their road agencies to find out if we have got road managers effectively stalling the application and almost hijacking the NHVR."

Melham adds that some councils may lack the necessary resources to approve permits quickly — a point Petroccitto has also raised — while others do not know what to do.

"Some councils, we have found, were still ignorant of the law so they need training, they need to be educated," he says. 

Despite the industry’s frustrations with the permit process, Melham says attendees at the SA meeting did express their support for the NHVR.

"There is still very strong support," he says.

Melham is particularly pleased with the direction the regulator has taken under the leadership of Petroccitto, who took over as CEO earlier this year.

"The NHVR certainly under his leadership is actually liaising directly with the industry a lot more than what they were previously," Melham says.

"Basically he inherited a mess. I reckon in the six months he has been there, he has done more in six months than the three years prior to him."

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