Council reiterates warning as deadline for regulations looms

"Wake-up call" for industry as doubts raised again over whether governments can meet deadline for national heavy vehicle regulations

Council reiterates warning as deadline for regulations looms
Council reiterates warning as deadline looms

By Brad Gardner | February 3, 2012

Doubts have again been raised over whether governments can get meet the end-of-year deadline for finalising national heavy vehicle regulations.

A single set of trucking laws overseen by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is due to begin on January 1 next year. The regulations and regulator are scheduled to be finalised by December this year.

But the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council’s latest report on national reforms says unresolved issues continue to put the timeframe at risk.

Except for Western Australia, all states and territories last year signed an agreement supporting the switch to harmonised regulations.

"While the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement is a significant achievement, the council notes that, given the detailed work yet to be completed, there is some risk that the deadline for full implementation may not be achieved," the report says.

"To ensure good progress and in the interests of improved public accountability, the council recommends that COAG set some interim milestones between January and December 2012 to guide progress and aid performance reporting."

The COAG Reform Council made similar recommendations in November last year, but the latest report has sparked claims it should act as "a wake-up call" for all parties involved in the development of national regulations.

The Australian Logistics Council’s Managing Director, Michael Kilgariff, says a national law is essential to improving productivity, efficiency and safety.

"The report should serve as a wake-up call for all jurisdictions and stakeholders to ensure they get behind this major economic reform, which is a critical ingredient to achieving more efficient supply chains, a stronger economy and cheaper goods on supermarket shelves," he says.

"With less than 12 months to go before the three regulators are supposed to be up and running, ALC believes some tough questions need to be asked of the officials responsible for progressing these reforms."

Kilgariff has issued a series of questions to officials, including when training for the regulators will happen and when service agreements between the NHVR and individual jurisdictions will be finalised.

He has backed the council’s recommendation for interim milestones to be introduced.

NHVR Project Director Richard Hancock is pushing to finalise service agreements with state and territory transport departments and police agencies on compliance and enforcement in the first half of the year.

He says government officers and the police force will need to go through training to ensure they enforce national regulations consistently come January 1, 2013.

The states and territories are still trying to nut out a deal on a system for national heavy vehicle fines. The National Transport Commission (NTC) is due to release a discussion paper this month.

Furthermore, a replacement for the now defunct three strikes scheme in NSW has not been finalised. Hancock says work is continuing with the state’s government and there were meetings prior to Christmas last year.

"There’s some active discussion going on about that," he says.

The council’s report also raises concerns over national reforms for the rail and maritime sectors.

A national safety regulator for rail is due to be established by December this year and fully operational in 2013.

Along with its warning on heavy vehicle reforms, the council says "there is some risk that the deadline for full implementation may not be achieved" due to the amount of work left to do.

It raises the same concern over the creation of a single maritime regulator, recommending interim milestones between now and December 2012 to monitor progress.

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