Review of flawed HVNL to go back to basics: NTC

Retter insists appetite exists for new law and wholesale reform

Review of flawed HVNL to go back to basics: NTC
Paul Retter


The National Transport Commission (NTC) says it expects to draft a whole new Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) after it completes its review of the existing law.

The statement comes as the nation’s peak trucking body cast doubt on whether the NTC is the right body to conduct such a review.

According to NTC chief executive Paul Retter, the initiative will be a "back-to-basics" review expected to result in an entirely new performance-based law that is fit for purpose

"Since May 2018, we have heard a lot from industry about the government not being prepared to make wholesale change to the law," Retter says.

"Based on our discussions with governments, I am firmly of the view that this is not correct.

"The HVNL, in its current form, does not reflect best practice. We understand that it is onerous for industry and the regulator, falls short of being truly national and is overly prescriptive and complicated."

The 2012 HVNL consolidated 13 model laws and brought six of the eight state and territory laws into a single national law.

"However, it is fair to say that while the HVNL was better than what preceded it, it was subject to a fair amount of compromise," Retter says

His statement comes in the face of criticism from the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) in a commentary for ATN of the NTC’s reform ambitions and what it sees as a patchy effort with the original law.

Read the ATA’s critique and what it wants from HVNL reform, here

But Retter says the NTC was best placed to undertake the review as it was not beholden to any particular jurisdiction.

He insists the NTC will work with all governments and a large number of industry stakeholders and other experts across Australia during the review.

"The NTC was established by Australian governments to undertake exactly this type of national transport reform," Retter argues.

"We understand the law, its limitations and frustrations."

He says the NTC had already been consulting widely with industry, road organisations, jurisdictions, fatigue and technology experts, and key legislative professionals ad notes that discussions have occurred between the NTC, the ATA, NatRoad, ALRTA, road transport organisations in each state and territory, safety bodies, and governments.

"We will establish an expert review panel to help develop new policy settings and legislation that reflects best practice," Retter says.

The NTC was also setting up working groups for the key priority areas of safe and efficient access, enhanced fatigue management, accreditation for safer operations, and telematics, technology and data.

Consultation with industry will happen in rural and regional centres as well as urban areas to ensure the views of heavy vehicle operators across the country are taken into account when drafting replacement legislation.

"The 2018 review and subsequent proposed legislation will acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all across this vast country," Retter says.

"Taking a performance-based approach to the HVNL, rather than a prescriptive approach, will deliver streamlined legislation without compromising on safety."

The NTC is to finalise the terms of reference for the review in the next few months for approval by the Transport Infrastructure Council.


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