Opinion: Taking a stand on accreditation reform

By: Geoff Crouch


The regulator should be separate from the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme

Opinion: Taking a stand on accreditation reform
Geoff Crouch

 

In the world of heavy vehicle accreditation, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is the regulator, the implementer and the enforcer, responsible for regulating heavy vehicle accreditation all while running its own scheme, the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS).

There is no separation of powers whatsoever, and I think that most would agree that this simply does not pass the pub test.

The ATA is taking a stand. We’re calling on the jurisdictions to understand that there are more effective ways to manage accreditation. There is a better way to do this, and it starts with structurally separating the NHVR from the NHVAS.

The NHVR should instead focus on being a good regulator and turn its attention to improving safety outcomes.

Accreditation schemes were first developed in the mid-1990s as an alternative compliance solution to support the traditional approaches based on prescriptive regulation, and as a result the ATA established TruckSafe and the governments implemented the NHVAS, now run by the NHVR, and both are voluntary schemes.


How Crouch took aim at customer audits, here


The ATA has long argued that the NHVAS breaches the competitive neutrality policy agreed by the Australian and state governments. Operators accredited by this government business receive regulatory benefits that operators in comparable private schemes, including TruckSafe, don’t get.

Under the NHVAS, operators can access regulatory concessions that reduce business costs, including extra mass, exemption from inspection requirements and longer working hours for drivers. In contrast, TruckSafe accredited operators do not receive the same regulatory concessions as NHVAS operators, even though they need to meet higher standards. This is not just unfair and anti-competitive, it discourages operators from being in a higher quality scheme.

In its first submission to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review, the ATA proposed that safety-based schemes like TruckSafe should be formally recognised under the law, with the NHVR to regulate safety schemes and auditors, rather than trying to run its own.

It’s important to note that this is not just something the ATA is calling for. An independent review of Australia’s heavy vehicle accreditation schemes by respected consultant Peter Medlock recognised TruckSafe as a robust scheme and identified the need for schemes that operate to a high set of standards to receive the same regulatory concessions as those in the NHVAS.

First and foremost, the separation would improve the safety of those in the NHVAS scheme. The current standards do not cover the full scope of the HNVL, and there is growing acceptance of this across government and industry.

These exclusions include speed management, speed limiter maintenance, non-concessional mass, dimensional requirements, load restraint or fatigue management under standard hours. 

Additionally, the separation would improve productivity and provide greater benefit to operators by reducing the need for multiple scheme and customer audits.

Most importantly, it would enable the NHVR to focus its safety role on fewer and more effective accreditation schemes rather than remain tied up trying to run its own and encourage more businesses to become accredited. This would be a big step improving safety outcomes.

This is about ensuring a safer industry, reducing audits, stronger regulation and competitive neutrality – there has never been a better time for transformational change in how we improve safety.

For more information about the TruckSafe program or to become accredited, head to www.trucksafe.com.au

Geoff Crouch is chair of the ATA

 

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