Industry backs uniform roadworthiness regime

By: Rob McKay, Photography by: Brad Gardner

Many devils in the detail as stakeholders respond to regulatory impact statement

Industry backs uniform roadworthiness regime
Chris Melham wants clear, nationally accepted roadworthiness rules.


National truckowners and others back a uniform heavy vehicle roadworthiness system leading to uniform rules and enforcement, submissions to the National Transport Commission (NTC) show.

The submissions are in response to the NTC’s consultation regulatory impact statement (RIS) that will be used to assess a number of regulatory options, and their potential impacts.   

"The trucking industry is strongly in favour of nationally uniform enforcement, including standard rules for vehicle inspections and defect assessments," Australian Trucking Association (ATA) CEO Chris Melham says.

"The current roadworthiness rules are sometimes applied haphazardly or wrongly at the roadside.

"Clear, nationally accepted rules need to be established for declaring a vehicle roadworthy, and for issuing and clearing minor and major defect notices.

"There must also be consistent national training for enforcement officers."

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) backs the ATA’s thrust and suggests a national heavy vehicle compliance and surveillance strategy and a harmonised education and training package must also be developed before Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) amendments are made.

Once done, it says regulators and industry can jointly develop:

  • criteria for assessing and clearing defects
  • the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual (NHVIM)
  • the independent audit framework, audit matrix and reporting template accompanying the NHVAS maintenance accreditation module
  • the Maintenance Management Accreditation Guide
  • a matrix to determine when a vehicle should be selected for inspection to underwrite inspections only on a targeted basis
  • a hierarchy of documents, including OEM documentation, used to determine roadworthiness of a particular vehicle
  • criteria to determine when a regulator can accept an enforceable undertaking.

But representative bodies and companies also express concern at the acknowledged lack of evidence surrounding present arrangements, with the ATA saying it does not support changes to periodic scheduled inspections as the role these inspections play in keeping heavy vehicles roadworthy and safe is undefined, and the ALC suggesting this shortfall must preclude related changes to the HVNL until rectified.

Submissions also reveal qualified support for a risk-based approach to inspections, limited by what is seen as a lack of clarity and detail in in the RIS.

In particular, as Toll amongst others points out and as the RIS acknowledges, there is a possibility of the national system overlaying state schemes, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales.

"The opportunity cost of having vehicles off the road to satisfy the requirements of two systems would be high for industry," Toll says.

Toll also expresses disappointment in the lack of RIS focus on operator licensing – an idea the ALC backs − noting and accepting the NTC’s position that the initiative was ‘beyond scope’.

More broadly, Toll questions any predominant focus on maintenance, which it sees as a comparatively minor safety concern, given the RIS itself puts bad maintenance as a 1-5 per cent primary cause of heavy vehicle crashes and when US and Australian research emphasises driver-related issues, cargo problems and the absence of cruise control and anti-lock braking as more pressing.

The extension of chain of responsibility to third party maintenance providers and vehicle or component manufacturers is contentious, with the point made that such responsibilities are covered already, not least in the HVNL.

"The owner / manager / director of a vehicle / fleet has the primary responsibility for ensuring it is maintained correctly," Commercial Vehicle Industry Association of Queensland (CVIAQ) national policy director Ken Cowell says in a position also held by his Western Australian and South Australian counterparts.

"Secondary responsibility belongs to the driver, who should alert the owner of any defects, and in an unsafe situation refuse to operate that vehicle.

"There is sufficient, indeed robust regulation and control on the manufacturing, sales, service, repair and modification sector of the industry in place today, directly via Chapters 3 and 5 of the HVNL, Australian Consumer Law, and of course common law and duty of care obligations."

The ALC calls for any COR moves be tested with the industry before draft laws are put to transport ministers.

Meanwhile, the TIC has emphasised its concern at the aftermarket spare parts segment, saying its unregulated nature has led to "a potentially very dangerous situation" whereby roadworthiness is difficult to ascertain due to opacity over the quality of such parts.

"The use of unregulated spare parts, particularly safety critical brake, steering and suspension parts is widespread in the heavy vehicle industry," the TIC says.

"Quite simply without controls on the parts used to repair and maintain heavy vehicles, roadworthiness cannot be assured."

It wants safety critical heavy vehicle aftermarket spare parts to be subject to the same requirements as those in Europe and that UN-ECE Regulation 90 for brake components, or similar, be adopted here.

The CVIA WA also notes that the WA-specific COR legislation is restricted to mass, dimension and load restraint breaches regardless of mass.

Submissions can be found here.

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