Positives reported from HVNL reform meeting

By: Rob McKay

Significant agreement between industry and officials but transparency fraught

Positives reported from HVNL reform meeting
Peter Harris


The portents appear promising for a new Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) that remedies weaknesses troubling the trucking industry, if concerns raised in a meeting between officials and the industry are heeded and common ground continues to be found.

But concerns remain on how the states are approaching the National Transport Commission’s (NTC’s) HVNL review and the preference of some states for keeping discussion out of the public eye is feeding disquiet.

It is understood that New South Wales is yet to decide if it will allow its submissions to be published, once it is completed.

ATN is awaiting responses from relevant departments in Victoria and the Northern Territory.

Certainly, Western Australia prefers any such discussions be at several levels away from the public.

"Main Roads is currently engaged with the National Transport Commission’s Heavy Vehicle National Law Review through the Jurisdictional Strategic Oversight Panel and sub-committees," Main Roads WA spokesman Dean Roberts tells ATN.  

"The response will be provided in confidence to the NTC to assist them in further development of the Heavy Vehicle National Law."

Western Roads Federation (WRF) CEO Cam Dumesny points out that without significant changes that make the HVNL an unarguable proposition for the state and its trucking industry, how the process develops remains of little anxiety there.

The situation was unlikely to change, given the lack of direct and serious engagement with WA interests on the review, it will continue to be viewed there as an entirely eastern state issue, Dumesny says.

Tasmania has a similar position to WA.

"Tasmania has been an active participant in the Heavy Vehicle National Law review since it commenced," a Department of State Growth spokesperson says in a written response.

"We will continue to participate in the review.

"The review is being undertaken by the National Transport Commission (at the direction of the Transport & Infrastructure Council), and we will adhere to their position on publishing submissions, if we provide one."

Read state department  responses to the questions on the HVNL review, here

With the ‘national‘ future of any proposed new law still obscure, it is clear the NTC is unconcerned about how transparently the states engage in the review process.

"There are multiple ways for our stakeholders to put their views on the table," an NTC spokesperson tells ATN.

"Policy development is an ongoing conversation and it’s up to stakeholders to choose how they wish to engage with us.

"We welcome all forms of feedback, including online, working groups, formal submissions and workshops, to inform and shape the recommendations we put forward to ministers."

A less sanguine attitude is reflected in a South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) report on this week’s meeting between the national regulator’s Industry Reference Forum and its Officials Forum, along with the HVNL review’s Expert Panel chair Peter Harris and Joint Senior Officers Group (JSOG) chair Natalie Pelham.

SARTA reports it gained strong support from Harris, the former Productivity Commission chairman, for its call for all government submission to be made public lest untested state positions be entrenched before consultation with the broader industry, thereby threatening a failed review.

ATN is seeking comment from Harris.

The report states that common ground was found during the meeting, including for the concept of a dual-stream approach to developing a safety-focused risk-based new HVNL

This would entail:

  • base-level simplified prescriptive rules that smaller operators may choose to apply
  • an alternative risk-based option – similar to the WHS laws – where required standards are set in the new HVNL and operators and other parties do their own risk analysis and implement effective ways to manage those risks.

Echoing criticism from industry safety advocate Rod Hannifey, it is reported there was agreement that the review issues papers are too long and involved.

Rather, simplified 2-3 page ‘exploratory proposal’ papers should be developed that simply and directly outline possible new proposed HVNL provisions.

And it seems evidence to the HVNL risk-based regulation issues paper from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell, about smaller operators’ needs was vindicated.


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