NSW councils defend HVNL access rights

Local governments insist they know the lie of the lanes

NSW councils defend HVNL access rights
Local governments say local roads must remain their concern


New South Wales councils back Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) reform – until it impinges of their control of local roads.

Through representative body Local Government NSW (LGNSW) and in the face of freight industry criticism that they can be overly focused on road protection, councils have reiterated that they are answerable to their communities and have a deeper understanding of their respective road networks than any other body.

In the course of their defence, LGNSW underlines the areas lacking in state and federal approaches to the issues, including ignorance and neglect of infrastructure and incomplete data

"We caution against making changes that skew the legislation in any way that favours the needs of the heavy vehicle industry at the expense of the role and responsibilities of councils as managers of the local road network," LGNSW’s submission states.

"At the same time, we recognise that neither state or federal governments have a clear understanding of the key ‘first and last mile’ hotspots on the local road network in NSW.

"We strongly recommend that priority is given to properly mapping and assessing their suitability to support freight movement.

"A rigorous assessment of ‘first and last mile’ hotspots would help inform all parties about the areas of the local networks that will support the freight task.

"Importantly, it would also allow easier and more informed decision-making regarding access and would help to ensure road funding is properly targeted."

It adds that: "At stake here is a council’s ability to manage the risks to their communities and this should not change in a revised law."

Read about the debate over prescriptive HVNL provisions, here

LGNSW argues it is incumbent on the state and federal governments to fund the necessary network analysis that will help councils process applications more efficiently, "with more information, along with any further outreach that is necessary".

It underlines a quandary that remains unresolved of councils being responsible for local roads but bereft, under current road pricing arrangements, of the ability to charge heavy vehicle operators for the use of their roads – and argues for a user-pays system.

"If the heavy vehicle industry wants improved access to council roads that cannot currently provide the service level required, then consideration must be given to ways in which the industry can contribute to improvement in the levels of service in local government areas where they require access. Unless the current road pricing arrangements change, councils’ rights to manage access decisions on their local road networks must be maintained," the submission asserts.

While freight industry representatives argue that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is yet to fully hit its stride in timely Over-size Over-mass (OSOM) permit delivery, the councils see a lack of data informing its portal as a significant issue.

"Councils have advised LGNSW that the access permit process would be less burdensome from an administrative perspective if the NHVR Portal had a much more complete data set.

"Rather than having to review applications for access permits on a permit-by-permit basis, councils would be able to use the Portal to see where access has previously been granted or not granted, and what the rationale was for the decision-making process.

"The more data in the Portal available about vehicle types, swept paths, loadings, mass, dimensions, previous access permits for example, the easier it will be for councils to process access permits."

They also reject having blame for delays heaped upon them and questioned whether "applications provided to councils by the industry are universally of a high standard and should be processed quickly – councils advise that this is not always the case".

They also reiterate a point make in the National Land Freight Strategy – A Place for Freight report, of 2012 as still having relevance: "To date, neither transport nor land use planning has delivered complete freight routes that extend from origin to destination…As a result, local roads that form the first and last mile section of a freight route are not designed for access by Higher Productivity Vehicles (HPVs)."


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