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HNVL reform needs 21st century thinking says Mahon

Fresh eyes needed to modernise regulatory approach, QTA boss believes


The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) must be subject to a total revamp in conception and approach if it is to fulfil its promise, according to Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) CEO Gary Mahon.

Hard on the heels of giving evidence to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) amendments inquiry, along with other industry bodies, Mahon tells ATN the handling of heavy vehicle regulation is mired in a mindset of the previous century — and the first-half of it at that.

“We live in a digital world and we’re bound by analogue legislation,” he says.

“These days in the industry, difference is normal; back in the 1930s, difference was rare.

“In the world of apps and mobile devices and goodness knows what else, there’s a whole lot of different ways of thinking about giving imprimatur to difference, and just deal with the absolute exceptions at the margin.”

New eyes

The QTA is heartened that the parliamentary committee made the review its second recommendation, it believes the industry and the nation it serves needs “someone to undertake the review that is not bound by prevailing orthodoxy”.

Though leery of using David Gonski as an example, Mahon notes the businessman and philanthropist “was brought into look at the education system because he didn’t come from education”.

“They would think differently on how you might craft a legislation for an industry that lives and competes with the digital economy every day of the week,” he says.

He points out that, even by conservative estimates, at least 150,000 permits are issued in this country every year.

“They give themselves at least 30 days to think about it.

“So there’s 4.5 million lost days before you can blink.

“What other industry is prepared to put up with that?”

He estimates the actual lost days total is closer to 6 million — “that’s and enormous hit to the industry, and more than 80 per cent of the time, we know the answer is going to be ‘yes’.”  

On the theme of how things were nearly a century ago, Mahon notes that permits were first introduced back then, when cards were in use and the ballpoint pens were yet to be mass-produced.

“All we have done is automate that process,” he argues.

That approach ignores the practice accepted for decades of reviewing the business model first rather than automating what is already being done.

Real world example

He notes recently completed negotiations with Transurban to allow larger fleets to rely on GPS tracking and to dispense with tags.

“They are not making he fleets use GPS that Transuban develops, all the fleets are doing is opening a gate to let Transurban feed off the GPS that the fleet already uses.

“Why can’t we have an extension of that principle to apply how you move difference around the network?”

There are too many assumptions that if we want to do something, the bureaucracy has to invent it.

“Why not just tap into what we’ve already got?” Mahon asks.

“If a company the size of Transurban can trust their income to the GPS network that exists in our fleet now, I think it’s pretty safe.”

New theme

Mahon points to as section of the QTA’s inquiry submission as summing up what the industry will call for nationally in due course.

“We need a comprehensive and fundamental review of the HVNL so that its administrators can be agile and responsive in the national interest to productivity, safety and efficiency,” it reads.

“In this way we can ensure we have a comparative advantage in this country in a sector that contributes 8.6 per cent to GDP. That is a fair chunk of change in anyone’s language.

“We are a highly decentralised country with a relatively small population.

“We are an industry, along with the general business sector, all levels of government and academia, that ought be charged with the broadest terms of reference in a review to challenge this orthodoxy and bring forward to our lawmakers new thinking, lateral thinking, for efficient regulatory industry oversight.”

Insisting that the industry does not have the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) in its sights on this, Mahon accepts that such a view butts into bureaucratic and political inertia and resultant action must occur if the industry is to avoid remaining mired.

“If we don’t challenge it, we won’t get anywhere,” he says.

“We’ve got to start the conversation somewhere.”


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