NHVR urges greater effort to reduce permit processing times

By: Brad Gardner

NHVR CEO says current timeframes for processing permits threaten industry’s survival.

NHVR urges greater effort to reduce permit processing times
Not good enough: NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says the time taken to approve heavy vehicle permit applications must be reduced.


Timeframes for processing heavy vehicle permits are blowing out across the country, with trucking operators having to wait more than three weeks on average to have their applications approved. 

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) used its appearance at this year’s Local Roads and Transport Congress to reveal the average time local and state governments operating under the Heavy Vehicle National Law are taking to process permits.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto says local governments are averaging 15 days nationally to approve an application, while the states are taking 16.5 days. 

"The average across all permit classes across the nation is 21 days. That’s still too long," he says.

New South Wales councils topped the list as the worst performing, taking on average 22 days to approve an application. 

The figure is 13.5 days for Queensland and Tasmanian local governments. Councils in South Australia are slightly better at 13, with Victoria taking 15 days to get permits out the door. 

Petroccitto says there are even some councils taking more than the legally permitted time of 28 days to approve permits, leading him to warn that more must be done to accelerate the process. 

"We’ve got to pick up this issue around customer service. The industry can’t survive on some of the timeframes that we are experiencing at the moment," he says.

"National averages at the moment are still around 20 days to issue a permit. In the heavy vehicle industry that is a lifetime for some of these operators."

Petroccitto is pushing for greater use of gazettes and notices to end the need for trucking operators to apply for a permit. 

He is also keen to reduce the the 28-day outer limit for processing applications. 

"The 28-day is not sufficient and we need to fix the 28-day issue," he says.

"What is the right outer limit? I’m not 100 per cent sure yet…We really need to work through it, but 28 days is not sufficient if we’re going to achieve the productivity benefits that we want to deliver for this nation and continue the operations of our heavy vehicle industry."

Petrocitto was appointed NHVR CEO earlier this year and tasked with cleaning up the mess created when the regulator briefly took control of processing heavy vehicle permits in February. 

Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia all took back control of processing applications for travel within their respective borders. The NHVR has been restricted to processing permits for Tasmania and applications for interstate journeys.

Petroccitto and his team are making progress, but there is still a lot of work ahead. 

"The key focus over the last few months has really [been] about stabilising the current permit timeframes. And while I have started to see an improvement in some of those timeframes, the timeframes are still not good," he says. 

Petroccitto adds that the NHVR is approving permits within one day, but the process is hitting a wall when the applications reach the relevant road manager. 

In response, the NHVR is now collecting data on the time individual councils are taking to process permits.

Petroccitto plans to use the information to determine which local governments are struggling to process permits timely and to work out what can be done to fix the problem.

"I’m a realist. I know that some of these remote, rural councils don’t have engineers on staff. You have an engineer that might turn up once a month so that the application waits for the engineer to come on board," Petroccitto told the Congress. 

"What we need to work through is what can we put in place in terms of support systems or how do councils work together to maybe have a consultant engineer that can actually be based somewhere else but can still do your assessments to help speed up those timeframes."

The NHVR also wants to improve transparency around the approval process to allow trucking operators to track where their permit application is.

Petroccitto says the system operators use to lodge applications does not allow them to view its progress, while the NHVR cannot track an application once it leaves the regulator’s office and goes to the relevant road manager for approval. 

"It really needs to be able to allow a customer to track where their permit’s at so they know how to plan and get some of their timeframes and some of their business requirements. At the moment there is no visibility," he says. 

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