ATA seeks equal footing for TruckSafe

By: Rob McKay

Crouch argues NHVAS unfairly enjoys advantages unavailable to industry scheme

ATA seeks equal footing for TruckSafe
Geoff Crouch seeks a level playing field


Governments should level the playing field between the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) and TruckSafe, according to Australian Trucking Association (ATA) chair Geoff Crouch. 

Crouch’s call came as the ATA released its submission to the review of the federal government’s competitive neutrality policy. 

"The NHVAS enjoys a net competitive advantage as a result of its public ownership," Crouch says. 

TruckSafe was established before the NHVAS and is operated by the ATA.

"Businesses accredited under TruckSafe are required to meet five key standards, and are audited by independent, qualified auditors," Crouch says. 

"TruckSafe includes additional safety requirements under its maintenance standard compared to the NHVAS, requires operators to meet all five mandatory standards, uses a more rigorous audit approach, and utilises an independent expert panel to approve applications, audits, and to review the TruckSafe standards.

"Despite these additional safety and best practice requirements, regulatory concessions are available to NHVAS accredited operators that are not available to TruckSafe accredited operators. 

"The concessions include inspection exemptions in some states for vehicles accredited under the NHVAS maintenance module.

"This module is substantially the same as the TruckSafe maintenance standards, but without TruckSafe’s additional requirements for roadworthiness assessments and checks on truck speed limiters." 

The ATA argues that the competitive advantages available to the NHVAS were in breach of the 2016 Intergovernmental Agreement on Competition and Productivity-Enhancing Reforms. 

"Governments have declared that competitive neutrality is important to the long-term interests of the community, to improving access, quality and diversity in services to the community and ensuring the efficient investment of resources," Crouch says. 

"They’ve said that government businesses should not enjoy a net competitive advantage, regulatory frameworks should not restrict competition, and that in providing services government policy should encourage a diversity of providers. 

"The ATA completely agrees – and it is time for governments to apply these principles to the NHVAS.

"We need to improve heavy vehicle accreditation by encouraging diversity, innovation and competition, by levelling the playing field between the NHVAS and TruckSafe." 

The ATA’s position echoes that of transport and logistics academic Dr Kim Hassall, who raised similar points in the January edition of ATN.

Commenting on operating standards, Hassall says that "we have several failed certification schemes, a plethora of codes, no national standard and we need another conformance review to head-off the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) becoming an anti-competitive proprietary governmental scheme, now that it has one stand-alone owner".

He argues that there are "some small but disquieting benefits being given by the new owner of NHVAS that are not afforded to equivalent modules in other certification schemes.

"This is a misuse of market power and was not totally dissimilar to why a conformance review was undertaken in 1995, the Kean Inquiry."

A response has been sought from the NHVR.

The ATA submission can be found here.

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