Authorities to get more investigation and enforcement powers

NTC says approved policy changes will better align HVNL with workplace safety laws

Authorities to get more investigation and enforcement powers
NTC says the approved policy changes will give real teeth to chain of responsibility laws.


Police and other authorised officers will have improved powers to investigate breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and, where appropriate, impose sanctions, under policy changes agreed by Australia’s transport ministers.

National Transport Commission (NTC) chief executive Paul Retter says improved investigative and enforcement powers will help to make Australia’s roads safer for everyone.

"The overwhelming majority of Australia’s transport industry complies with the law and works hard to keep everyone safe," Retter says.

"However we know there are a small number of people, whether they be operators, drivers or other parties in the chain of responsibility, who try to cheat the system.

"These changes to the HVNL will help the authorities crack down on illegal practices that put people’s safety at risk – not just people who work in the transport industry but anyone who uses the road.

"Where possible these policy changes have been designed to make the rules easier to comply with by more closely aligning them to existing workplace safety regulations."

The changes are expected to help authorities investigate individual crashes and address the systemic causes of crashes.

Designated authorised officers will be able to issue prohibition notices to address an immediate safety risk.

In order to address systemic maintenance issues they will also be able to require that a whole fleet or class of vehicles be inspected if the authorities have a reasonable belief that they are defective.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will also be given the power to publish the outcomes of successful prosecutions, giving the public and industry tangible evidence about the effectiveness of our chain of responsibility laws and providing important lessons for industry on safety.

Courts will also have powers to issue injunctions to address ongoing safety risks.

"These changes will give real teeth to our Chain of Responsibility laws which hold the whole supply chain accountable for their role in preventing road crashes," Retter says.

A meeting of transport ministers approved the policy changes on May 19 and a draft bill will now be developed and submitted to transport ministers for their consideration at their next scheduled meeting in November this year.

The changes follow a review to ensure that investigative and enforcement powers are appropriate for the new chain of responsibility duties which will commence in 2018.

Also approved are amendments to the HVNL that give effect to the NTC’s policy work on executive officer liability, specifically requiring executive officers to take positive steps to ensure that their organisation meets its key safety obligations under the HVNL.

Additional NHVL amendments include:

  • increasing general mass limits for twin-steer semitrailer combinations to improve productivity
  • recognising "tag trailers" through a new definition.                   

The minsters have also approved changes to the vehicle standards legislation including reducing the restrictions on the materials that can be used for signage as long as it is appropriate for its purpose, and introducing labels for electric and hydrogen vehicles, much like those required for LPG and natural gas fuelled vehicles.

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