HVNL faces ‘comprehensive overhaul’ as review begins

Terms of reference approved, stakeholder consultations be held

HVNL faces ‘comprehensive overhaul’ as review begins
Michael McCormack


A comprehensive review is underway into the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) to consider ways to make improvements that can boost national road safety and productivity delivery.

Federal transport minister Michael McCormack welcomed the review commencing, to investigate potential changes which enhance road safety and productivity outcomes.

McCormack says the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) of federal, state and territory ministers recently approved the review’s terms of reference, submitted by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

"The NTC’s terms of reference reflect the widely held view that the HVNL, in its current form, falls short of being truly national and is overly prescriptive and complicated," McCormack says.

"It is now widely accepted that while the first iteration of the HVNL in 2012 was an improvement on the previous multi-jurisdictional situation, it now needs to be comprehensively overhauled.

"Extensive consultations will be held with stakeholders as part of the review including trucking industry representatives and related industries, policy and law enforcement agencies, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator [NHVR], all three tiers of government and members of the Australian community.

"To support and help guide the review, an expert panel chaired by the recently retired chairman of the Productivity Commission, Peter Harris, and including representatives from the trucking industry and Infrastructure Australia, has also been appointed."

The expert panel comprises:

  • Sharon Middleton – director, Whiteline Transport and president, South Australian Road Transport Association
  • Andrew Ethell – executive director, Amalgam Strategic and Board Member, Infrastructure Australia
  • Gary Mahon – CEO, Queensland Trucking Association
  • Gary Liddle – enterprise professor of transport, Melbourne University and senior strategic adviser, transport, Jacobs
  • Louise Bilato – executive officer, NT Road Transport Association

Read the NTC's statement that the review of the 'flawed' HVNL will go back to basics, here

McCormack says the NTC would consider industry feedback and focus its investigation on key priority areas, including safe and efficient access, enhanced fatigue management, accreditation for safer operations and telematics, technology and data.

To ensure the views of heavy vehicle operators across the country are taken into account when drafting the replacement legislation, the NTC will undertake consultation with rural and regional stakeholders, as well as those in urban areas.

"The review will complement other Government priorities such as the development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and the recently announced National Road Safety Governance review.

"Members of the Transport and Infrastructure Council of Ministers are looking forward to receiving the NTC’s first set of recommendations near the end of this year.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) welcomes the development.

ATA chair Geoff Crouch asserts the law is presently "far too long, prescriptive and complicated".

"At 633 pages, the national truck law is more than three times the length of the Civil Aviation Act, which governs air travel, and more than four times the length of the Rail Safety National Law, which regulates train safety," Crouch says.

"Last year, the ATA and its member associations secured major changes to the chain of responsibility provisions in the law, which made them more straightforward and fair.

"The rest of the national truck law needs to be looked at again from first principles, and the review announced today will deliver the back to basics approach that we so desperately need.

"Australia has the fifth largest freight task in the world. Road freight is essential to the Australian economy. It is vital that we have clear and modern legislation in place." 

The ATA believes the review must consider key issues carefully including:

  • the prescriptive work and rest hours, including work and rest hour tolerances for electronic work diaries
  • heavy vehicle access approvals
  • removing red tape
  • performance based standards
  • the use of technology and data for regulatory purposes and
  • heavy vehicle accreditation, with the independent Medlock Review calling for dramatic changes.

"In our discussions with government about the review last year, the trucking industry said that the NTC would need to be guided by an Expert Reference Panel with wide-ranging expertise and direct access to ministers," Crouch says.

"As a result of our discussions with the NTC and the alternative terms of reference that we drafted, the review will include the reference panel that we need, the right chair and the right members.

"Our council was determined to see the panel chaired by an eminent Australian with wide-ranging productivity expertise. Our councillors said they wanted a chair who would bring insights from other areas of the economy to road transport regulation.

"Governments have delivered on our approach with the appointment of panel chair Peter Harris AO. Peter was the chair of the Productivity Commission until last September. He will bring his vast expertise to the role and help inject new thinking into the discussion about how to regulate our industry.

"We also welcome the review panel members, which include SARTA President and ATA Director Sharon Middleton, Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon, and NT Road Transport Association Executive Officer Louise Bilato. 

"The expert panel members have immense practical experience. Their common sense and dedication will keep the review on the right road."

Members of the trucking industry will be given a chance to have their say on the HVNL review at the ATA’s Trucking Australia conference in Perth on April 3-5.

"We will include sessions and workshops in the event program that provide a platform for positive discussion and debate," Crouch says.

"This is a chance for industry professionals to come together and share their opinion on what the law should look like."

Terms of reference and further details about the review are available here


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