Opinion: tackling technological change

By: Warren Clark

Regulation must be technology neutral to be a success for all

Opinion: tackling technological change
Warren Clark


The potential of telematics to assist operators is growing, particularly with the number of new heavy vehicles that are fitted with telematics equipment. Members tell us that they are eager to adopt new technology to further enhance safety and productivity outcomes.

They need the unfettered right to explore the adoption of new technologies, as the pace of technological change accelerates.

Telematics has the potential to assist with efficiency as congestion increases.

Real-time communication between the driver and the depot, together with applications that show alternative and safer routes, in particular, enables drivers to divert from road delays.

There are also benefits for vehicle servicing: vehicle sensors can deliver alerts about engine problems and provide diagnostic tips.

Members want to choose the technology they embrace for these and other useful applications. But not mandating regulatory telematics for access was one of the key priorities in the feedback we received in the recent Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review process.

We also know that concerns about prosecution are a reason many operators won’t invest in regulatory telematics. NatRoad has emphasised throughout the current HVNL review process that enforcement practices and lack of confidence in those practices is the number one concern of members.

In turn, there is a lack of confidence about giving enforcement agencies access to electronic records.

While recognising that the HVNL has legislated tolerances for small breaches when using an electronic work diary, operators are concerned about governments focusing on small breaches and not systemic breaches or patterns of behaviour.

This concern is reinforced when considering the Intelligent Access Program (IAP).

The National Transport Commission (NTC) in its 2018 review of regulatory telematics found that IAP generates many false positives.

For example, New South Wales processes 70,000 non-conformance reports a month. Nationally, over 1 million non-conformance reports are dealt with annually – the majority are false positives because of the inherent problems with IAP. This is unacceptable.

In addition, a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics found a number of challenges with the existing approach to IAP, including:

industry experience that IAP is too stringent for its intended purpose

increases in the number of noncompliance reports and additional data processing costs

high costs of IAP for operators, reducing the incentive to use more productive vehicles

inconsistency in the application of IAP, leading to extremely high compliance cost for operators.

IAP has failed. This failure illustrates that governments should not mandate a specific technological solution, particularly in an area as complex as vehicle telematics.

Read Warren Clark’s view on the way forward on fatigue, here

The answer lies in introducing technology-neutral laws that permit operators to use technology to meet performance-based targets. This is a polite way of saying that governments should stay out of the way as much as possible when it comes to the use of technology.

The law should support and be able to adapt to various technological solutions.

There should be no repeat of IAP where expensive technological solutions are imposed on operators for little benefit.

Operators will continue to introduce technology that assists them in their business.

Where the installation of that technology also has the ability to meet performance-based criteria then operators should be given the freedom to use the technology to that end.

The industry must be able to choose and develop its own technologies to achieve the best outcomes.

Warren Clark is NatRoad’s chief executive officer


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