Disjointed HML policies to stay

Existing jurisdictional differences on higher mass limits are set to continue under national heavy vehicle regulations

Disjointed HML policies to stay
Disjointed HML policies here to stay
By Brad Gardner | March 25, 2011

Trucking operators using higher mass limits will stay face inconsistent regulations even if national heavy vehicle laws are introduced in 2013.

The draft regulatory impact statement on national laws, released last month, proposes allowing states and territories to impose their own HML conditions.

HML allows vehicles to carry greater loads on select routes in return for agreeing to additional compliance requirements such as the Intelligent Access Program (IAP).

While noting frustration within the trucking industry over existing provisions, the document – released by the National Transport Commission – recommends retaining the existing system.

"Those jurisdictions that feel it is too permissive would be required to make local exclusions by way of derogation," the document states.

"Jurisdictions that feel that the model law does not go far enough could enable local productivity variations by way of notices and permits."

Based on the findings of an independent expert panel established to resolve cross-border inconsistencies, the impact statement says extensive consultation between jurisdictions has failed to reach a consensus on eligible HML vehicles.

It says the states and territories diverted from what was supposed to be a uniform law due to concerns over whether infrastructure – mainly bridges – could support heavier trucks.

"The failure to implement the HML policy in a consistent manner is a source of significant frustration for industry, particularly for those that operate in cross-border regions," the impact statement says.

"Coupling HML with other conditions, such as IAP, has further complicated compliance for industry."

The document also highlights ongoing frustration in the industry over local government decisions to refuse access to vehicles even if they meet compliance obligations.

The industry will need to rely on states and territories to open up more their road networks to HML vehicles once infrastructure is upgraded.

"Although derogations and productivity variations will not produce ‘the same outcome in the same circumstances’, they will place the onus on the jurisdiction to expressly exclude certain vehicle configurations from HML," the impact statement says.

"Over time, as infrastructure improves and the impacts of HML are better understood, these derogations should be removed."

According to the report, HML has the potential to reduce road freight costs by $498 million and pavement costs by $11.2 million annually.

National heavy vehicle laws are due to begin in 2013. The impact statement recommends a number of regulatory reforms to create uniformity, including amending fatigue management laws and abolishing the ‘three strikes’ policy in NSW.

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