Hit the accelerator call to nation's transport ministers

ALC highlights efficiency gains hiatus as much discussed reforms languish

Hit the accelerator call to nation's transport ministers
Lachlan Benson


The Transport and Infrastructure Council’s (TIC) latest communique has been greeted with a call to speed up reforms.

The TIC, made up of the nation’s relevant ministers, pledged to create a "nationally consistent service level standard for roads, to categorise roads by their function and set customer-focussed service levels for each road category" in its 10th communique.

But while acknowledging "some positive outcomes", governments need to adopt a faster pace when it comes to implementing key reforms the freight logistics industry needs.

The ALC notes sever issues have been on government agendas for many years, with little to show for the time spent.

"It is now time to lift the pace of policy reform, so that the freight logistics industry can efficiently and safely meet the freight task of a growing nation," ALC interim CEO Lachlan Benson says.

The TIC communique states that advice on heavy vehicle road reform options, including on implementation, would be expected next year.

"The focus will be on developing a package of measures to deliver benefits for industry, with further consultation to occur on elements of the reforms," the communique says.

"The advice will look at road funding reform, independent price regulation and a forward-looking cost base, while considering the needs of users of less-travelled roads.

"Council agreed to work with the Council on Federal Financial Relations on the reforms in 2019."

Read the ATA’s stinging response to the last TIC communique, here

It endorsed terms of reference for a Productivity Commission Review of Transport Reforms, scheduled to begin next year.

It also agreed to legislative and regulation amendments to heavy vehicle and rail safety national laws, updating the Australian Defence Force Exemption Framework, increasing permissible mass limits for three axle buses, and endorsing the draft Bill for rail-based drug and alcohol management provisions.

Ministers discussed the final report of the Review of Oversize Overmass Access Arrangements and noted work already underway.

Ministers also discussed identifying early actions to improve current arrangements, particularly if it would support farmers in drought affected areas.

They reaffirmed their commitment to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and its national mandate.

As part of ensuring improved safety, reducing regulatory red tape and keeping costs to a minimum, Ministers also agreed to undertake an independent assurance review to assess options for how regulatory services are delivered. The review will report at the TIC’s first meeting in 2019.

"What industry now requires is all governments to act more quickly to progress reforms, so they can be implemented alongside the finalised National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy [NFSCS], due to be presented to the next TIC meeting scheduled for May next year.

"Improving the efficiency and safety of our supply chains is a vital national economic priority. If Australia is going to meet its growing freight task and remain internationally competitive, then we must ensure the regulatory frameworks around freight movement reflect modern realities and allow this industry to meet customer’s expectations.

"ALC notes that jurisdictions have been asked to return to TIC in 2019 with advice on Heavy Vehicle Road Reform (HVRR) options, including advice on implementation.

"We now need a definitive reform timeline to be established and adhered to, and for industry to be given its opportunity to comment on acknowledged critical matters including location-based charging, elements of a forward-looking cost base and the ambit of community service obligations.

"It is also crucial that the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law [HVNL] set to be undertaken by the National Transport Commission delivers the right outcomes.

"In ALC’s view, this review offers the perfect opportunity to mandate the use of telematics in all heavy vehicles. No one can credibly dispute the capacity such technology has to save lives on our roads, and the technology is becoming more affordable each day. Delaying mandatory telematics is needlessly putting lives at risk on our roads.

"Similarly, the HVNL review is the right moment to establish a consistent national form of accreditation for heavy vehicle operators.

"This must include requiring operators to have the financial capacity to maintain their fleets to the required standard, and to adopt a uniform safety management system.

"ALC welcomes TIC’s decision to develop a program of work to address the barriers and challenges impeding the uptake of low and zero emissions vehicles, including for freight. This is a matter ALC will continue to pursue by engaging with TIC ministers through the ALC Electric Vehicles Working Group."

The ALC also finds itself in full support of rail freight interests seeking more effective and efficiency-focused national rail regulator.

"The Productivity Commission Review of Transport Reforms, scheduled to begin in 2019, must focus on economic opportunities that can be unlocked through greater national harmonisation of regulations around freight movement, and ensuring regulations are designed to manage actual risks, rather than perceived risks," Benson says.

"For that reason, ALC has advised TIC Ministers that we believe the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator [ONRSR] should be given an expanded remit that allows it to focus on initiatives that will drive enhanced productivity.

"We note that this view is also supported by the Freight On Rail Group and believe it is time for governments to act on this clear industry enthusiasm for change."

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator,ONRSR, Transport and Infrastructure Council,TIC, Benson, Heavy Vehicle National Law,HVNL, Review of Oversize Overmass Access Arrangements, Oversize,Overmass, communique,


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