'Draconian' decision-making on truck access must go: NatRoad

Existing "draconian decision-making arrangements" on heavy vehicle access must not remain under a national heavy vehicle regulator, NatRoad says

'Draconian' decision-making on truck access must go: NatRoad
"Draconian" decision-making on truck access must go: NatRoad
August 1, 2011

The trucking industry is putting the heat on governments to rescind existing processes on heavy vehicle access conditions once national regulations begin, fearing retaining the status quo will undermine the reform.

NatRoad wants the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to be directly involved in access applications, pitting it against the NSW Government and councils which are desperately trying to retain their grip on the decision-making role.

In its response to a draft proposal on the powers of the regulator, NSW earlier this year dismissed a suggestion the NHVR should be able to overrule existing road managers. The Local Government Association of South Australia baulked at the prospect of councils losing their power to determine heavy vehicle access.

The NHVR draft regulatory impact statement recommends giving the regulator responsibility for receiving and managing applications and matters relating to vehicle conditions.

Furthermore, the RIS proposes automatic approval for applications similar to those previously approved, reasons for applicants if their submissions are rejected and a review process for affected parties.

"If the NSW Government position on the proposed access arrangements is anything to go by, state governments are lining up against proposals that would improve transparency and accountability by ceding certain decision-making powers to a new national regulator or opening up their decisions on road access to internal or external review," NatRoad President Rob McIntosh says.

"If our state and territory ministers do not have the courage and conviction to keep the spirit of the COAG agreement and pull their departmental bureaucrats into the 21st century, we may find ourselves with a new national regulator that is ill-equipped to deliver on the social and economic philosophies upon which it was conceived."

McIntosh has implored NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay to continue his reformist approach since coming to power that has delivered gains on wool bales, higher mass limits and a departmental restructure of transport in the state.

"This is another opportunity to cast off the thinking of the past and embrace a positive change with national benefits," McIntosh says.

He believes a review system overseen by an independent body will ensure fair treatment for people affected. McIntosh labels the current system "draconian decision-making arrangements".

Unless governments give up their powers on access conditions and do not agree to the automatic approvals process or decision reviews, he claims the regulator "will be reduced to nothing more than an application clearing house".

A final proposal on the NHVR will go the transport ministers this month.

Along with opposing any attempt to yield power on decision making, a response to the RIS from the NSW Government calls for restrictions on access permits. It wants them to expire after one year instead of the three-year timeframe proposed under national regulations.

It also rejects the recommendation for road managers to make a decision on access applications within 28 days, claiming more time is needed to conduct assessments.

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