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NSW strays from national regulations

Both sides of politics in NSW back amendments to national heavy vehicle law, including adding new fatigue management provisions

By Brad Gardner | September 12, 2013

Both sides of politics in New South Wales have agreed to stray from the path of cross-border consistency on national heavy vehicle regulations in a move that involves adopting extra provisions covering fatigue management.

The Opposition says it will back the Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Amendment Bill, which amends legislation introduced earlier this year that signed NSW up to national heavy vehicle regulations.

The Bill will ensure NSW retains its existing provisions such as its livestock loading initiative, holding operators accountable for non-compliant speed limiters and maintaining a 90km/h speed limit on road trains.

But a key amendment that has generated angst in the industry will allow the NSW Government to impose extra requirements on companies that gain advanced fatigue management (AFM) accreditation.

“The NSW minister for road and ports will be able to apply conditions if considered necessary to an advanced fatigue management accreditation approved by the national regulator,” Mental Health Minister Kevin Humphries says.

“Members may ask why the NSW minister for roads and ports should be allowed to apply conditions around future fatigue accreditation. Put simply, some transport operators look shiny on the surface but are ordinary when you scratch the surface. For example, some operators have been known to doctor their work dairies.”

NatRoad has been vocal in its opposition to the amendment, fearing it will allow NSW bureaucrats to second guess fatigue experts, who will be responsible for accrediting trucking companies under AFM once national regulations begin.

“This is not just extra red tape. It could see trucking operators issued with inconsistent and conflicting instructions,” NatRoad President Geoff Crouch claimed last month.

The Bill, as it currently stands, retains the 15-hour maximum work time, putting it at odds with the national approach.

However, Humphries says an amendment to the Bill is due to be moved to remove reference to maximum work time while still allowing the Government to apply extra conditions on operators.

Opposition spokesman on roads Ryan Park says he had initial concerns about the Government’s approach, but adds that he is comfortable with it after seeking advice from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

“The regulator believes this will help achieve a more consistent national approach, which is what we all want to see,” Park says.

However, he wants the Government to review its stance once the regulator is running at full capacity.

“I also seek a sunset clause or formal review period for this legislation to ensure that as the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator becomes a fully functioning agency and regulatory body with experts in fatigue management, the Bill aligns with what is occurring nationally,” he says.

The Bill, which was introduced in the Legislative Assembly in late August, also grants primary producers an exemption from using a work diary as long as they operate a truck within 160km of their farm.

Furthermore, it will retain demerit point penalties for offences including defective brakes, steering and seating, dangerous bullbars and damaged or improperly displayed number plates, while also requiring heavy vehicles to fit monitoring devices to assist investigations authorities may carry out.

When introducing the Bill last month, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads Stuart Ayres claimed the changes represented “a safe and sensible approach”.

Liberal MP Andrew Rohan says the new fatigue scheme will adopt a risk-based system.

“The risk classification scheme allows operators to balance their risk. For example, a longer evening rest could permit more work time during the day,” he says.

The Bill will also ensure the Roads and Maritime Services and councils will be free to charge trucking operators for route assessments.

Despite NSW retaining State-based provisions, Cronulla MP Mark Speakman says national heavy vehicle regulations will lead to a reduction in red tape and end unnecessary and confusing cross-border rules.

“When the heavy vehicle national law commences, the same law will regulate heavy vehicles in every jurisdiction except Western Australia,” he claims.

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