Ministers agree on national truck regs - by 2013

New single, national heavy vehicle regulator by 2013 under an “historic” agreement by transport ministers

Ministers agree on national truck regs - by 2013
Ministers agree on national truck regs - by 2013
By Jason Whittaker

Australia will have a single, national heavy vehicle regulator by 2013 under an "historic" agreement by transport ministers today.

The meeting of the Australian Transport Council (ATC) in Cairns adopted recommendations for new overarching agencies to regulate the transport sector, but ministers admit the task of establishing the framework will be arduous.

Ministers considered a range of options, including harmonising existing state-based legislation, but have endorsed new overarching bodies for road, rail and sea transport. Transport groups were advocating for this outcome.

Federal Minister Anthony Albanese calls it "an historic step towards a truly national transport system".

"In cooperation with the states and territories, we are putting in place a seamless national economy - an outcome that will lift national productivity and allow transport operators to get products onto supermarkets shelves and exports to market at the lowest cost," he says.

The ATC is recommending to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) the establishment of a "new national heavy vehicle regulator…responsible for regulating all vehicles over 4.5 gross tonnes, with a commitment to ongoing improvements to safety and the preservation of local productivity initiatives".

Ministers also agreed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority would become the sole national regulator of all commercial vessels operating in Australian waters, while the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will oversee national rail safety incident investigations.

"ATC recognises that there are many issues both of principle and of detail to be worked out to deliver these consolidated national regulatory approaches," the meeting communiqué reads.

"ATC is proposing to resolve certain key matters first and report to COAG in each case not later than the middle of 2010."

Ministers will consider which jurisdiction will host the proposed national regulator, draft the laws for rail and heavy vehicles and design an implementation strategy while considering ongoing costs for each system.

"These governance and financial arrangements would then be embodied in national partnership agreements prior to the new national systems coming into initial effect in 2012, with a view to full implementation by 2013," they say.

Ministers also considered emission standards for vehicles, but seemed to baulk at the idea of mandatory cuts as proposed this week by Barack Obama’s United States administration.

"Mandatory CO2 emission standards would only be considered for introduction if a regulatory impact assessment process – which would involve industry and consumer consultation – demonstrates a net public benefit case," the communiqué says.

Work will also start on a feasibility study on incremental pricing to replace the current PAYGO model as part of the ATC's heavy vehicle pricing reform. Ministers say they will develop a work program for the trials at their November meeting.

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