Productivity Commission draft reform report action calls

ATA and ALC call for government responses to new reform agenda points

Productivity Commission draft reform report action calls
There are fears the reform brakes are on


Two of the nation’s peak transport and logistics bodies have endorsed the Productivity Commission’s (PC’s) draft National Transport Regulatory Reform report.

Both the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) highlight policy prescriptions they have champion backed and concerns they have raised supported.

The draft report underlines that, after eight years, gains from reforms under Council of Australian Governments (COAG) auspices related to heavy vehicles, rail, and domestic commercial vessels have been limited and claims at the start of the process overdone.

For heavy vehicles, the PC acknowledges reform has delivered more consistent regulation across most jurisdictions and is likely to have reduced compliance costs for some operators.

Reform has lifted productivity by improving road access for larger, more efficient trucks.

But the promised large efficiency gains for operators have come nowhere near fruition.

Even the safety dividend is seen as incidental, and all but invisible recently.

Productivity Commissioner Paul Lindwall believes there is much more that needs to be done.

"The pace of reform has picked up recently but more action is needed to deliver the expected safety and productivity gains," Lindwall says.

The PC’s to do list for COAG is:

  • accelerating reform of infrastructure planning and management, including the Heavy Vehicle Road Reform agenda and trials of road user charging
  • removing unjustified derogations and grandfathering, using risk-based assessments of the evidence
  • strengthening the safety culture of industry through education and regulatory incentives for capable businesses to switch from ‘tick the box’ compliance to accredited, risk based safety management systems
  • realising the full potential of new data technologies to improve safety and productivity
  • removing regulatory barriers — such as some Australian Design Rules — to the early adoption of new technologies which can lift productivity and improve safety.


The ATA hails the PC recommendation that the federal government should engage the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to undertake a defined, targeted trial of incident investigation for heavy vehicles. 

"The ATA has long argued that the ATSB should undertake independent, no-blame safety investigations of crashes involving trucks and autonomous vehicles," ATA chair Geoff Crouch said. 

If the trial is successful, the report recommends the government amend the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 to confirm investigation of incidents involving heavy vehicles as a function of the ATSB.

The report also recommends the ATSB’s role should be extended to include any incident where autonomous technologies at or above SAE level 3 autonomy may have been involved. 

Read how the PC’s transport reforms inquiry kicked off, here


The ALC underlines a need to invigorate the reform effort amid PC-noted signs that it is faltering.

"Unless we now deal with these issues, we risk stagnating productivity in the transport sector and being left behind by Australia’s international competitors," ALC CEO Kirk Coningham states.

"ALC especially welcomes the Draft Report’s recommendations for further reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), which are consistent with positions ALC has already put forward to the review of the HVNL now being undertaken by the National Transport Commission. This includes providing the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) with an explicit mandate to take a risk-based approach to its functions."

"ALC also supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that jurisdictions transfer regulatory functions in relation to the HVNL to the NHVR by 1 January 2022. This will help to address continuing frustration within the industry at inconsistent enforcement of the law across state borders."

"Derogations from the HVNL and the Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) at the jurisdictional level cause needless confusion and administrative burdens for logistics companies operating across state and territory borders.

"As ALC has said, removing these unjustified derogations should be an urgent priority for the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC)."

"The recommendation to review these derogations and remove those which cannot be justified should be acted upon swiftly.

"ALC also continues to urge the federal government to provide the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) with a clear productivity mandate, as has already been given to the NHVR. This will help ensure a proper, national focus on enhancing productivity in the freight rail sector."

"We similarly welcome the Productivity Commission’s call for industry participants to be assisted to move away from ‘tick the box’ safety compliance towards the use of accredited, risk-based safety management systems.

"ALC likewise supports the recommendation for state and territory governments to improve general road user’s understanding of interacting safely with heavy vehicles though improved approaches to education and enforcement.

"The draft report also highlights the need to modernise Australia’s approach to road access decisions and permit as-of-right access for High Productivity Vehicles (HPVs) on key freight routes.

"Governments should take note of this and work collaboratively to ensure the efficiency of our freight networks is not jeopardised by outdated approaches to road access decisions – and similarly ensure that key freight routes are serviced by adequate supporting infrastructure, including rest stops."

"Finally, ALC welcomes the draft report’s focus on using technology and data to drive productivity and safety improvements in the sector. This includes ensuring the National Freight Data Hub [NFDH] is designed in a way that encourages data sharing as a way of improving performance and investment decisions, whilst giving confidence to industry participants that their commercial interests will be properly protected."


The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) chair Duncan Gay believes the draft report highlights the benefits that had already been achieved, while charting a path for improvement.

"We welcome the draft report and will continue to work with the Productivity Commission as they finalise their inquiry over the coming months," Gay says.

"The draft report reinforces the key safety and productivity benefits that have already been enabled through the work of industry and the NHVR.

"Like the NHVR, the Productivity Commission, identifies that these benefits will be strengthened through improvements to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and increased cooperation between state and local governments.

"For example, enacting recommendations around reviewing derogations, reducing the prescriptive nature of fatigue legislation and expanding the number of freight routes covered by notices would reduce the burden on operators and support the role of the NHVR."

The NHVR expects to work with industry and regulatory partners to enable a reform agenda that supported continued improvement.

"We have a collective opportunity and responsibility, through the Productivity Commission Inquiry and the National Transport Commission review into the HVNL, to ensure that the outcomes of these critical pieces of work are aligned to deliver real and genuine change for the heavy vehicle industry and for our communities," CEO Sal Petroccitto says.

"It is essential that the appropriate and not the fastest approach is adopted in delivering a new and modern law.

"The NHVR will continue to work with industry and every level of government to achieve the best safety outcomes for all road users and support productivity for the benefit of our whole economy."

The full draft report can be found here.


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