ASBFEO at odds with industry bodies on prescriptive HVNL

Smaller operators said to value simplicity as NTRTA holds line and explains law’s failings

ASBFEO at odds with industry bodies on prescriptive HVNL
ASBFEO Kate Carnell


While transport industry players are as one in seeking less prescription in regulation through a reformed Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), there is evidence indicating the position is less than universal.


In her submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) on the option of a risk-based approach to regulating heavy vehicles, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell, argues that this option risks burdening many smaller operators.

"It is important that any such change focuses on the need for improved safety, productivity and other benefits for the entire transport sector," Carnell states.

"However, this focus must refrain from adding unnecessary administrative imposts on small business operators.

"It is also important that small business is allowed appropriate time to make any necessary changes to their vehicles and operations.

"Our industry feedback from many small operators is that the existing prescriptive rules actually provide them with better clarity and that the likely confusion that regulation will bring requires significant lead−times around implementation."

She suggest that a two-tier approach allowing small business operators to retain access to key elements of the current prescriptive HVNL, alongside the elements that provide productivity improvements, safety and environmental concerns.

"A phased approach to the introduction of regulation for smaller operators could also be applied with a long lead time that these smaller operators could work towards," Carnell states.

"This would assist the smaller operators to progressively achieve the productivity benefits that are a key purpose of the We note that there are further consultation papers to be released that will deal with aspects such as the collection and sharing of vehicle data."


There were no such qualms from the Northern Territory’s industry body.

Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA) sees a "heavily prescriptive and unwieldy" HVNL causing NT operators crossing borders east and south huge grief and their drivers refusing to work such routes.

The NTRTA quotes a member highlighting that this was because  "… no matter how law abiding, truck drivers are treated like criminals by police officers on the side of the road".

"This sentiment has been echoed in various forms by a number of interstate jurisdictions," it says.

"The enforcement attitude and culture must change to be more cooperative and striving to achieve a common goal of road safety."

While the It believes the problem was hard-wired into the law on drafting, where the emphasis was on enforcement while the educative function was missing.

Read what some of the biggest stakeholders advise on NHVR reform, here

NTRTA takes the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to task for the flawed conception at inception of imposing a full cost recovery model on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

It notes that rail was given 18 years and marine 10 years of incremental cost recovery.

"This decision, along with the reverse onus of proof, unrealistic timeframes for implementation of the NHVR and the highly prescriptive nature of the legislation cemented the NTRTA’s decision to lobby the NT Government and remain outside the HVNL," it says.

The NTRTA is concerned that NTC consultation occurs concurrently with the Transport and Infrastructure Council’s (TIC’s) Heavy Vehicle Road Reform (HVRR) agenda.

"As such the HVRR agenda stands to encroach upon much of the HVNL subject matter including access, vehicle operating standards, mass, dimension, loading and Over size Over mass (OSOM).

"The HVNL needs to be cognisant of where the (HVRR) is moving and what the interface between the Independent Price Regulator and the NHVR might be in the short to medium term."

Meanwhile, it notes with approval that the TIC agreed with the NT’s approach to managing fatigue risk under the Work Health and Safety Act, thereby recognising "the different operating environment in remote areas and that risk management is a highly effective way to assess and control fatigue risks".

It views the NHVR’s OSOM permit role continued to perform poorly in comparison with the independent NT model, making it less imperative that the territory’s industry become part of a national regime.


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