NHVR cops tough findings on road access reforms

By: Rob McKay

Queensland Audit Office points to board failings and poor planning

NHVR cops tough findings on road access reforms
Sal Petroccito says the NHVR has learnt its lessons.


The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR’s) handling of national heavy vehicle access reforms is the target of heavy Queensland Audit Office (QAO) flack in its report on the matter.

While accepting that the NHVR has improved its stakeholder engagement, improved project management and undertaken a staged release of system changes, the Heavy vehicle road access reforms Report 20: 2015–16 notes that the industry faces "inconsistent processes and decisions for getting a heavy vehicle permit, and the industry has yet to obtain any substantial benefit from the new law with regard to access permit management".

The report also points to something of a Catch 22, whereby urgency to get the new system underway led in part to its failings when going live in early 2014 but the pace of system rectification is seen by some stakeholders as too slow.

In considering "lessons learnt", the QAO hints at pressure to get the system underway but lays significant responsibility for the NHVR’s failings at its board’s door.

"The NHVR experience is an example of what can go wrong when an entity underestimates the time and effort required to implement a nation-wide reform and does not effectively manage stakeholder expectations and mitigate known risks," the report finds.

"What the NHVR did not do well was:

  • allow sufficient time and resources for implementation
  • manage the change required through effective engagement
  • clearly communicate to decision-makers the impact of risks on successful implementation if not well managed.

"The NHVR Board asserted to us that it was not under pressure to go live on 10 February 2014 and it made its decision in good faith with the expectation that the NHVR would be ready.

"When it took its decision, the Board had information before it indicating that there was a risk that it would not be fully ready to go live in February 2014, and there are references in reports to the Board of financial pressure to deliver the new access arrangements.

"In addition, some state and territory governments and the Australian government were encouraging the NHVR to deploy the new access management system.

"In the event the NHVR was not ready, largely because the timeframes it agreed to were overly ambitious and did not allow enough time for important change management activities such as testing systems and processes, rigorously assessing readiness, and staff training."

"Poor planning and engagement" meant ignorance of local government operating practices stymied effective handling of permit applications.

The QAO goes on to gauge how the access reform implementation diverged from the Australian National Audit Office's (ANAO's) better practice guide, Successful Implementation of Policy Initiatives, which aims to advise public sector entities on policy implementation.

In response, NHVR CEO Sal Petroccito tells ATN it "welcomes the Auditor-General’s recent report and will continue to implement its recommendations.

"The NHVR has learnt lessons from 2013 and 2014 and will continue to use these learnings to better serve the heavy vehicle industry.

"The NHVR’s new customer portal is currently rolling out with 600 registered customers.

"We expect a full rollout customer portal over the coming months. The working relationship between the NHVR and all road managers (state and local) is strong and effective.

 In his June 27 response to the audit, NHVR CEO Sal Petroccito, in conjunction with the board, notes a number of developments already underway and pledges to advise relevant ministers on "the 28-day outer limit for decision-making, and the related issues of stakeholder expectation management, and local government resourcing".

The full audit report can be found here.

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