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Industry seeks more from Joyce on HVNL reform

NTC being spoken to seen as ignoring wider issues in process


Federal transport minister Barnaby Joyce’s announced intervention on the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) reform process has been met by a lack of trucking industry enthusiasm.

This is due to developments affecting  the whole of the process rather than just National Transport Commission (NTC) shortcomings.

Though the industry does have issues with the NTC’s approach, Joyce will need to cast his net wider if the reform is to succeed, according to South Australia Road Transport Association (SARTA) CEO Steve Shearer.

Joyce’s intervention in the issue was comparatively muscular but it failed to placate industry leaders.

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark saw it as important but retained a certain caution about its likely efficacy.

“NatRoad is gratified to see the deputy prime minister is taking widely-held industry concerns about the broken HVNL review process seriously,” Clark told ATN.  

“He clearly understands the importance our industry plays in regional Australia and our broader role as an essential service that keeps the whole country moving.

“We are not convinced that the deputy PM raising these issues directly with the NTC will address deep-seated deficiencies, like the lack of real-world experience, that are hampering the process.

“As indicated in a letter to his office this week, we would still like to meet face-to-face and at the head of a small delegation that reflects the diverse membership of our industry.” 


Read what Barnaby Joyce said about the issue, here

There was a similar feeling at the ATA, which want an expert panel to take over the process.

“The ATA welcomes the deputy prime minister’s commitment to raise the industry’s concerns about the HVNL review with the NTC,” ATA chair David Smith told ATN.

“In our view, though, the NTC’s involvement in the review has failed.

“The review should be completed by an expert panel supported by a small staff.

“The panel should be charged with developing an approach to the national truck law based on best practice from around the world and industry’s on-the-road insights.

“The NTC’s work so far – and the many submissions it received – should be handled over to the panel as an input to its work.

“Given this head start, the expert panel should be able deliver a law that could come into force in 2023, a year ahead of any timeframe that the NTC process is likely to achieve.”

For his part, Shearer bolstered his original view of deeper problems involved and warned that history would look unkindly if his response remained on process from a government perspective rather than outcomes that are needed.

He felt sure an ineffective heavy vehicle law would go down poorly amongst the many Nationals members who run large trucks or depend on them.

On the proposals put forward in Monday’s fatigue meeting, Shearer cast the industry’s response in one word: “rejection”.

He said he was particularly perturbed to recognise an “almost 100% turnover” amongst jurisdiction officials, who were part of the engagement in an observer status only, indicating a serious lack of background and experience in negotiations and developments of the past 3-5 years.

“It actually shows in what’s being proposed because it looks like they’ve started from scratch without any grasp,” he told ATN.

“And when I ask the NTC at meetings such as Monday to explain to us all what they understand as the relevant 24-hour period and any 24-hour period, the answer I get is: ‘Not really sure, I need to check, I’ll come back to you’.”

Shearer was also critical of the piecemeal approach to aspects of fatigue management, noting that considering standard hours without considering its implications for basic fatigue management (BFM) and black-letter law enforcement was untenable.

Though the NTC would insist that jurisdictions have no part to play in its approach, contrary to Shearer’s concern last week, he said it was made plain at the meeting was told that many proposals objectionable to the industry were not its own.

Shearer also noted that the issue had motivated the SARTA membership more than any issue bar the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) drama of the previous decade.


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