Feds rule out taking over trucking regs

Feds won't take over transport regulations, instead relying on states to develop national laws

Feds rule out taking over trucking regs
Feds rule out taking over trucking regs
By Brad Gardner | November 2, 2009

The Federal Government will not take over national trucking regulations, with the the announcement uniform laws will be established under a state-based scheme.

Mike Mrdak from the Department of Infrastructure and Transport says a single national regulator will be hosted by one state with other jurisdictions implementing its decisions.

"The intention is that it will be hosted in a particular jurisdiction which will establish the legal framework for it. Other jurisdictions will essentially set up legislation which will allow that to happen. This body would then set up national standards across all of the regulatory provisions for heavy vehicles," he says.

Fronting an estimates committee last month, Mrdak told senators in Canberra efforts to progress the scheme will be considered by the Australian Transport Council when it meets on November 6.

"[Transport] ministers will consider some key decisions at that meeting including the location and the jurisdiction legislative requirements which would underpin the regulator," he says.

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic says under a state-based system the state hosting the regulator will make a ruling and then other jurisdictions will pass laws to ensure national uniformity.

Belacic says he has no preference as to which state hosts the regulator, but adds that there must be conditions in place.

"We would like a state that is effective and can bring other states along with it and has a good track record of working with the industry," he says.

He also dismissed any claims the state-based approach will lead to jurisdictions altering a national model law similar to what happened with fatigue management.

"It's not going to be another template. This will be where every state accepts legislation," Belacic says.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says it does not mind whether national laws are administered federally or by the states.

"We don't have a preference for one system over another provided it delivers results," a spokesman for the peak trucking lobby says.

But during the committee hearing, Mrdak was unable to assure senators an overhaul to transport regulations would lead to greater access for higher productivity vehicles.

He says access issues will still be determined by local road authorities and state regulators.

"I could not give you a 100 percent guarantee that the national regulator will increase access," Mrdak says.

Nationals Senator John Williams criticised the current approach to B-triples, which are used in Queensland but restricted in New South Wales.

"...livestock trucks that come down from Queensland into northern NSW...often have to unhook trailers and unload because of volume loading," he says.

Williams raised concerns a national regulator will "scale down" the use of B-triples by expanding the NSW policy rather than following the Queensland approach.

Belacic says a national regulator will rule on issues such as permits and enforcement and is not designed to cover vehicle access.

However, he says he is hopeful access problems can be dealt with if the national regulator is successful.

While saying it continues to push governments to increase heavy vehicle access, the ATA says its priority is to get a national scheme established and then work on trying to resolve the issues.

Governments have agreed to a new system by 2013 in an attempt to abolish inconsistent laws governing the road and rail sectors.

The Business Council of Australia last month called for national regulations to be introduced next year, but the ATA says it will be difficult to accelerate the agenda.

"There is a lot of detail that needs to be worked on through on this," the ATA spokesman says.

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