First steps for Productivity Commission reform review

NatRoad and SAFC throw hat in the ring with submissions

First steps for Productivity Commission reform review
Warren Clark


Flying under the radar has been the Productivity Commission’s (PC's) transport reform review, ceding most of the limelight to the higher-profile Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review it is running concurrently with.

Nonetheless, a pair of industry bodies have responded to its National Transport Regulatory Reform issues paper released in May (and which closes for comment today), with the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and the South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) providing two of the seven submissions.

The review was called to investigate the effectiveness – and seek opportunities to improve – the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG’s) transport reforms to deliver national productivity benefits and safety, which led to the birth of national regulators in the heavy vehicle, rail and maritime sectors.

Read the announcement of the Productivity Commission review in April, here

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says his organisation’s submission covers a range of issues affecting the road transport industry.

"We strongly support a fresh assessment of the economic benefits to the Australian economy of introducing a set of policies that promote efficiency and consistency in the regulation of heavy vehicles and better integrating Australia’s transport networks.

"The Productivity Commission’s main goal is to look at all areas of the transport industry and answer the question as to whether the changes introduced by Governments in the early part of this decade have been beneficial.

"In that context, the Productivity Commission will be looking at the industry’s safety record and, hopefully, advancing policies that assist to address improvements in safety outcomes.

"Unfortunately, there is no evidence to substantiate that any improvement or worsening in the safety record is linked to the passage of the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

"There is a need for much better research on the underlying causes of heavy vehicle road incidents and the key factors involved with identifying trends and patterns, a matter common to all elements of road safety.

"The HVNL represents far from best practice safety regulation."

NatRoad uses the example of fatigue management laws to highlight this point.

"The example of fatigue-related incidents shows that there appears to be no measurable beneficial effect of the passage of the HVNL in controlling the risk of fatigue-related incidents.

"Yet the HVNL has a very large number of highly prescriptive provisions directed to the control of the risk of driving whilst fatigued, centred around a range of pedantic administrative rules that members constantly give us feedback about: they just don’t work in a practical way."

NatRoad notes National Transport Insurance (NTI) data reported on by the National Transport Accident Research Centre (NTARC) shows that there has been a consistent level of fatigue incidents as a proportion of large losses from 2009 to 2017.

"This figure was at 10 per cent in 2009 and 9.8 per cent in 2017. The current HVNL review, as well as the Productivity Commission’s scrutiny of the transport sector, must result in changed laws that are more fit for purpose.

"In particular, the current reliance on prescriptive work and rest hours and on-road enforcement using work diaries is not the most effective way to manage fatigue and must be a priority for change."

The basis of SAFC’s submission is South Australia’s unique placement between every mainland state and the Northern Territory, meaning that, in terms of heavy vehicle regulation, it must balance working alongside both participating and non-participating parties in the national law.

While it notes that "the national regulators have, in general, been a boon for the transport and logistics industry … we are affected by every failure of cross border regulatory harmonisation in transport – of which there are still many."

"In examining the national regulators it is important to distinguish the differences between the entities they regulate – what is appropriate for heavy vehicles with a high percentage of small operators will not always (perhaps rarely) be appropriate for large, sophisticated operators."

The PC’s draft report is due for release in November this year.

NatRoad’s submission is available here, and SAFC’s here.


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