Permit failures almost caused demise of the NHVR

By: Brad Gardner

NHVR CEO reveals that the agency could have been axed earlier this year

Permit failures almost caused demise of the NHVR
Sal Petroccitto admits the regulator had a near-death experience.


The heavy vehicle permit debacle that happened under the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator's (NHVR) watch almost led to the agency's demise.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto yesterday revealed to the National Local Roads and Transport Congress  just how much damage the permit failures did to the regulator in the eyes of government.

The NHVR took over responsibility for heavy vehicle travel permits in February.

It was meant to deal with state and local governments on behalf of trucking operators to secure permits, but its IT system collapsed.

The situation left trucks stranded and freight undelivered because businesses could not get approval to travel.

"There was, significantly, the opportunity that we as an organisation could have been folded due to some of the failures that occurred earlier in the year, but I'm pleased to say that didn't occur," Petroccitto says.

"There were some major failings. We are back on track to fix those issues.

"I'm firmly of the view that we will be able to remediate the system to deliver a permit function that will deliver the outcomes that's required for industry and those players in that space."

Jurisdictions that had passed their permit responsibilities on to the NHVR had to take them back.

The NHVR is now limited in the types of permits it processes but is due to resume full control once its systems are up to standard.

While the NHVR has copped much of the heat for the disaster, federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss has heaped blame on the states and local governments.

"Sadly, that system did not cover itself in glory. Indeed it collapsed within four or five hours of opening," he says.

"There were two fundamental reasons.

"One was that the states dumped a whole pile of applications on the regulator on the first morning, some of which they had in their own system for many months. And clearly the system was overloaded.

"The second, most fundamental, reason why it collapsed was that local government wasn't ready for it."

Before the full launch of the NHVR, Truss says it was assumed councils were already issuing permits to allow trucks to travel on their roads − a power local governments have always had.

But he adds that when the NHVR began contacting councils to gain permit approvals, which the regulator was required to do, it was discovered that many trucks were using local roads without the knowledge or permission of the relevant council.

"In reality, the councils were not being asked. So when the regulator rang up local councils and said, 'we've got this wide load that wants to go through your area, can they go through', they were generally met on the phone with dumbfounded ignorance," Truss says.

A lack of qualified staff also hampered the ability of councils to help the NHVR process permits.

Truss says one council told the NHVR it could not deal with its permit request because the person responsible for that area was on leave.

"The truck was at the boundary of the shire and wanting to come in with this load and he [the council officer] was on two weeks leave and nobody else in the council could do it," Truss says.

He says governments and the NHVR have been using the months since then to improve the processing system.

"No tier of government can look at that experience with anything other than some embarrassment but also hopefully learning a lot of lessons," Truss says.

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