Over-zealous enforcement an ongoing issue for trucking industry

By: Brad Gardner

NatRoad blames parochialism for inconsistent enforcement practices across borders.


NatRoad is maintaining its case for the creation of a high-level committee to resolve ongoing cross-border compliance and enforcement issues.

NatRoad CEO Chris Melham says the group is receiving about 150 calls a week from trucking operators complaining about inconsistent practices and over-zealous authorities, despite the introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory all operate under the HVNL, but Melham says the law is being interpreted differently across borders.

"It really is 99 per cent of our calls are grievances with road agencies," he says.

"I think we’ve still got a high level of parochialism and self-interest in relation to road agencies wanting to retain their power over road law. They are reluctant to relinquish that power to the NHVR [National Heavy Vehicle Regulator]."

Melham has been advocating for the creation of an industry-government roundtable for the past two years, and he believes this approach will help address the industry’s concerns.

His proposal involves a committee of federal, state and territory transport department officials, the NHVR, the National Transport Commission (NTC) and delegates from the trucking industry.

"Because at the moment industry is not allowed in the room with the jurisdictions so we have no absolutely no idea what jurisdictions' positions and their culture is on certain reform issues under Heavy Vehicle National Law," Melham says.

"So we’re forever playing catch-up and second-guessing what the next move of the states are. We want to actually help the states. We want to understand what is your issue taking direction form the NHVR on certain aspects of the law? What’s your problem there?"

Melham wants federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss to take the proposal to the next meeting of Australia’s transport ministers to gain their consent.

"If we are to progress Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), we need to do it sooner rather than later. The industry is losing patience," he says.

Melham says NatRoad is receiving weekly notices from the NHVR about decisions it has overturned from authorities because they have not correctly interpreted the HVNL.

He is hopeful the NHVR will play a greater role in resolving compliance and enforcement issues once it has sorted out heavy vehicle permits.

"The quicker we can get the NHVR into that space, into the compliance and enforcement space, I think the industry is going to see its true worth," he says.

However, he adds that the agency will face a tough battle trying to change the culture of state and territory transport departments.

"It’s going to be very difficult. It’s going to be the NHVR and the states. That is going to be the biggest challenge," he says.

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