ALC wants tight controls under trucking laws

Policy makers urged to ensure national trucking regulations have stringent measures to keep police forces and government agencies under control

ALC wants tight controls under trucking laws
ALC wants tight controls under trucking laws
By Brad Gardner | May 17, 2011

Strict controls will be slapped on police forces and government agencies if a proposal to ensure jurisdictions enforce national heavy vehicle regulations uniformly is accepted.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) is advocating set guidelines under national regulations to keep police forces and government agencies from inconsistently applying reforms when they are introduced in 2013.

According to the ALC, governments will develop their own cultures, interpret provisions "in perhaps novel ways" and develop their own enforcement priorities unless clear guidelines are put in place.

It believes agencies such as police and WorkCover should only be eligible to be delegated responsibilities if they have undergone training by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

Furthermore, it says the regulator should be the only authority with the power to delegate responsibilities and that any agency tasked with enforcing the regulations should be banned from publishing guidelines on how they should be interpreted.

"Without this consistency there will still be, in effect, eight separate administrations, with the consequent loss of productivity gains flowing from harmonised regulation," the ALC says.

It made the comments in its written response to a draft proposal for national regulations released in February by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

The group, which represents some of the country’s largest transport and logistics companies, wants contracting arrangements between the regulator and individual jurisdictions made publicly available on the regulator’s website.

Under its proposal, the ability to delegation-based system will eventually transition to a single agency model whereby the regulator will be the only authority permitted to make decisions under national regulations.

"…it is usually better for a single agency to make decisions relating a particular subject matter (such as access to infrastructure) as that usually leads to more consistent decision making," the ALC says.

While the regulator will be the responsible for enforcing regulations, it will have the power to sign agreements with jurisdictions for them to enforce aspects of the reforms on its behalf.

Another challenge facing the regulator, the ALC says, is ensuring it receives enough funds to fulfil its role.

"The entire concept of the national regulation of heavy vehicles is at risk if the proposed National Regulator has insufficient funds to perform the necessary tasks," ALC CEO Michael Kilgariff says.

"Without the proper funding it will fail."

The ALC submission says the Federal Government needs to come to the table with enough funds to keep the regulator going.

It has raised concerns over the progress of the reforms, citing comments from the COAG Reform Council late last year over delays in reaching jurisdictional agreements on operational and funding arrangements. The agreements were due to be considered in December 2010.

"The alarm is heightened by the fact that at the start of May 2011 the relevant jurisdictional agreement is still absent," the ALC says.

The group has also asked for more information on a decision to permit productivity variations under the regulations.

The variations are designed to ensure existing schemes such as access conditions in individual states and territories are not lost under a national model.

"However, every deviation from the national model reduces the productivity benefits of implementing a national law, and that is a matter of concern to ALC," the ALC writes.

"It would be a concern for ALC if there is an expectation that a jurisdiction could not only allow for ‘productivity variations’ but also unilaterally insert its own provisions into the National Law."

It wants the regulations to stipulate what productivity variations constitute, how they can be made and how decisions can be appealed.

The submission wants a sunset clause inserted into the regulations so variations can no longer be made after a set date.

The ALC is, however, opposed to permitting jurisdictional derogations on the basis they will undermine national regulations.

"In the context of the development of national laws for a ‘seamless economy’ a ‘jurisdictional derogation’ is where a jurisdiction has no intention of taking up a particular component of a national law," the ALC says.

It says all jurisdictions should implement laws passed in Queensland Parliament. Under national regulations, Queensland will be responsible for passing laws. Other states and territories will then need to pass them through their parliaments to ensure uniformity.

Similar to the Australian Trucking Association, the ALC opposes the use of the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) for higher mass limits (HML) access.

It says the costs of the scheme to operators far outweigh the benefits they gain from greater access to the road network. According to the ALC, companies are yet to secure road access despite meeting their obligations.

"For reforms such as IAP to be considered acceptable to industry governments need to deliver on the access promised," the group writes.

The ALC is also resisting any attempt to extend the South Australian policy permitting road managers to require route compliance certificates.

"This approach will result in more paperwork, with little tangible advantage. So long as the right truck is on the right road, nothing appears to be added by requiring an additional certificate," it says.

"There is no evidence to suggest that there is any advantage in allowing this condition to be imposed on the whim of an individual road manager."

As well as responding to the issues raised in the draft proposal released by the NTC, the ALC has pushed for policy makers to go further by looking at a single system of heavy vehicle licensing.

Expressing disappointment that the option was not considered, the ALC says it "should be a priority ‘second wave’ reform project".

It also wants a single model for heavy vehicle inspections, starting with mutual recognition of each jurisdiction’s regime.

"This will further the move towards a single national regulatory scheme for heavy vehicles," it says.

The project team responsible for establishing the regulator is looking at implementing mutual recognition policies for issues unlikely to be resolved by 2013, such as Western Australia’s fatigue management laws and individual pilot and escort vehicle arrangements.

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