Trucking Turning Point: Innocent until proven guilty

By: Cobey Bartels

NHVR boss tells RFNSW national conference that database will cut wait times as COR changes shift onus of blame

Trucking Turning Point: Innocent until proven guilty
We'll always have enforcement, but now the driver won't instantly be deemed guilty


The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will cut inspection wait times for compliant heavy vehicle operators when a new national database is introduced, chief executive Sal Petroccitto says.

Speaking at the Road Freight New South Wales (RFNSW) 2018 conference, Petroccitto says the database will help reduce downtime during compliance checks.

"By this time next year, we’re expecting to be able to have available in real time on the side of the road, national information for our officers," Petroccitto says.

"The ability to have the information means we know the type of operator that we’re dealing with – where a compliant operator is generally kept on the side of the road for 10 to 12 minutes and a non-compliant one somewhere from 30 to 45.

"You can see some really big compliance benefits if you’re a compliant operator and you get pulled over three to four times a week.

"But more importantly this allows us to target who we want to look at as opposed to targeting everyone who’s trying to do the right thing.

"Our view is education not strict enforcement, to ensure we can deliver and continue to change the culture and perceptions of how things are done."

The NHVR released a series of factsheets in June to help operators prepare for law changes - check out our story here

Petroccitto says the NHVR was confident that a good portion of the industry had been able to reach a training program about the changes to chain of responsibility (COR) laws, set to come into effect on October 1.

"In the last six weeks, we have actually briefed over 3,000 businesses and by the end of this program we will have held over 550 sessions across the country and reached 12,000 industry participants across the supply chain," Petroccitto says.

"While we answer questions at each session, it’s important that those responses are available for other heavy vehicle supply chain businesses preparing for the law changes."

For that reason, the regulator today released a series of training videos online for operators who weren’t able to attend the training workshops – available here.

Innocent until proven guilty

Petroccitto makes it clear these COR changes are a major turning point for transport operators, who for too long have been assumed guilty until proven innocent.

"Before 1995, all heavy vehicle offences were attributed to the driver, so basically the guy was guilty no matter what," he says.

"In a couple of weeks, we will see some of the most significant changes coming into effect on the COR over the past 20 years."

"So, in effect, now you’re innocent as opposed to being guilty. That has to be a positive."

Holding Redlich partner Nathan Cecil reiterates Petroccitto’s statement, explaining that operators will now walk into court innocent.

"So, when you do go to court, you will actually walk in, for a change, innocent until the regulator proves that you’re guilty," Cecil says.

"As opposed to now when you walk in the door and you are guilty and you’ve got to dig yourself out of a hole."

However, that won’t be the end of changes to the laws, with Petroccitto telling RFNSW conference attendees that the push to review the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is proceeding well.

"Ministers will hopefully sign off on the terms of reference in November this year, and we’ve been on the public record stating the law needs to be fundamentally reviewed from the ground up," he says.

The freight industry injects $23 billion into the Australian economy every year, Petroccitto says, adding that he expected that number would continue to grow.

"I think we need to be aware of the fact that we do work in an environment which generates some significant revenue, which deals with 810,000 kms of public road, where interaction across some of those networks is becoming longer, and supply chains aren’t necessarily getting simpler," he says.

"At the end of the day we need to ensure that what we collectively all do is make it simpler; and if we can in the process reduce red tape, remove some of that burden and make the whole agenda simpler that’s a positive outcome for all."

It is a sentiment shared by RFNSW CEO Simon O’Hara, who says the coming year spells a focus on putting operators first and fixing longstanding transport shortfalls.

"Vision is important and we will maintain the focus on operators in ensuring that we achieve, with the help of government assistance, greater productivity on our roads," O’Hara says.

"We need to work more closely with RMS and the NHVR.

"We must know what is going on. We’ve got to own it."


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