Road rule reforms to deliver financial and safety boon: NTC


Overhauling the way road rules and vehicles standards are implemented may generate $72 million in savings and improve road safety

Road rule reforms to deliver financial and safety boon: NTC
Road rule reforms to deliver financial and safety boon: NTC
By Brad Gardner | July 26, 2013

Overhauling the way road rules and vehicle standards are implemented may generate up to $72 million in savings and improve road safety, the National Transport Commission (NTC) says.

In its report on the process governing road rules and vehicle standards, released today for public consultation, the NTC backs a shift away from the current model law approach to the applied law system used in the development of national heavy vehicle regulations.

Under the current method, states and territories draw on a model guide to develop their own laws. Jurisdictions can vary the model to suit their own needs, which the NTC says has led to inconsistent implementation of some rules.

The applied law approach involves one jurisdiction enacting a law that other states and territories then implement, and the NTC estimates the approach will save between $6 million and $72 million over 20 years and reduce risks to road users by removing the different rules that exist across borders.

"These rule variations have the potential to expose road users to additional risk when they travel outside their home state or, in the case of international visitors, as they travel across the country," the report states.

"The NTC contends that applied law is a superior approach to achieve uniform rules and thereby improve road safety. However, more information about the costs and benefits of implementing an applied law approach is needed to show that the benefits exceed the costs."

While saying existing processes have largely produced consistency across the country, the NTC adds that states and territories can introduce new or updated rules at different times across a six-year period.

"Consequently, for example, if a Victorian-licenced driver is driving in Queensland, they may use a different rule to other Queensland drivers and this may result in increased road safety risk," the NTC says.

Governments will need to weigh up the cost of ditching the model law approach, with the NTC saying it will cost $3 million to implement applied law into parliaments and $8 million to update computer systems and documents.

"There would be other costs for states and territories in using an applied law approach, for example, in replacing signs. However, these costs depend on the final, settled applied law. These costs are identified but not quantified," the NTC says.

The report states that a national system will allow governments to produce a joint communication campaign, delivering $2 million in savings over 10 years.

Vehicle standards covering heavy vehicles are already under applied law. The NTC says the model used for developing heavy vehicle regulations is ideal for extending applied law to all types of vehicles.

"For the applied laws for the Australian Vehicle Standards Rules it may be appropriate to use the national laws for heavy vehicles as the implementation mechanism. In this case, the host state would be Queensland," the report states.

"The heavy vehicle laws would need to be amended to make it clear that the Vehicle Standards Rules for light vehicles would be administered by the states and territories and not by the heavy vehicle regulator."

The report does not set a date for when the switch to the new regime should take place, but the NTC indicates it may take some time. A system of national penalties will need to be finalised, followed by the selection of a host jurisdiction to introduce laws into their parliament.

The remaining states and territories will then need to enact the law, change their computer systems to implement the national rules and then begin a joint communication campaign to make road users aware of the changes.

The NTC says the timing of implementation will need to be considered to keep costs down.

"For example, the timing of changes of computer system for any rule changes should be scheduled at a time when a state or territory road authority’s computer system was already going to be updated for another reason," it says.

"The NTC anticipates then that the implementation of an applied law approach might be staged over a period of time. The details of this timing will be developed in the implementation plans."

The NTC’s proposal is open to feedback until September 2. It says final recommendations will be submitted to transport ministers to vote on late this year.

Road rules establish basic rules for road users, while vehicle standards establish roadworthiness standards heavy and light vehicles must meet.

"Since the national road and vehicle standards rules were introduced in 1999 they have helped to make these rules much more consistent across Australia, improving road safety," NTC CEO Paul Retter says.

"However, further improvements are proposed to ensure that some important rules are uniform and that rule changes are implemented in a consistent and timely manner."

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