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Senate inquiry call on oversize overmass permit system

HVNL in sights of industry bodies and companies as delays cost millions and firms suffer


An alliance of state transport and logistics industry organisations is calling for a Senate inquiry into the heavy vehicle Oversize Overmass (OSOM) permit system.

The system’s performance and delays in access to routes trucking companies need to fulfil their contracts has led to growing unease in the industry, particularly where the boosted power of local councils is concerned.

“Billions of dollars of projects are being held up because we can’t get equipment to site,” the alliance of the Northern Territory Road Transport Association (NTRTA), Tasmanian Transport Association and the Western Roads Federation (WRF) tell senators in a document complied in March that haas just come to light.

“The movement of large heavy or over size equipment is critical in supporting the mining, resources, agribusiness sectors as well as the rapidly growing defence and infrastructure construction sectors. 

“Movement of such equipment requires permit approval to ensure the selected route, date and haulage equipment is safe for the movement.

“Any delays in these permit approvals, hence moving the equipment can lead to cost blow outs measured in the millions in some sectors. 

“The hidden cost though is the financial and emotional pressure placed on SME businesses, their staff and families, as they routinely face financial ruin as a result of increasing permit delays.”

Alliance officers also met with a number of senators to raise awareness, including Linda Reynolds, Glenn Sterle, Dean Smith, Malarndirri McCarthy, Barry O’Sullivan and Richard Colbeck, along with staff from Matt Canavan’s office.

Underlining that the issue is a national problem, the group highlights five instances in March where issues involving various arms and levels of government conspired to delay projects and raise costs:

  • WA to Queensland:  example of costing economy millions of dollars — mining equipment built and moved to WA five years earlier had to be barged from the NT to Weipa because, after waiting a 100 days, no permit had been issued by Queensland.  Permits had been issued in both NT and WA in two days.  On the very day of delay it was estimated to have cost the customer over $100,000.  
  • SA to Vic:  example of how it risks driver health and welfare — A 64 year old driver was left in 43 degree heat on the side of the road awaiting a permit approval,  whilst the recently cut back SA road agency explored approval options for a load that had already been moved along the same route
  • Tasmania to Victoria: example of how it is undermining regional development and jobs — it relates to Chandler Highway bridge beams, manufactured in Tasmania and critical to project timeline. Twenty four beams were to be delivered, first three beams loaded last week ready to be this week and were to be shipped out of Tasmania on March 17. The permit was applied for 40 days ago, but with late last week VicRoads asked for extension of time to assess.  Note this move has already been done. As of time of writing no permits had been issued for the move, meaning the operator cannot book traffic escorts, because the permit conditions are not known. The project operator is expecting the beams on site on Monday. Bureaucratic delays like this undermine confidence in Tasmanian manufacturing
  • Tasmania to NSW: example of how it imposes incredible stress on SME businesses — Sydney West Connex Bridge Beams – made in Tasmania. VicRoads again delayed permit approval due to lack of resources. NSW Roads and Maritime Services and local shire were also debating the route. The operator is facing substantial contingent liabilities if not on site this week
  • Vic to WA:  example of how police also involved in causing delays — Victorian rail equipment needed for a WA project was available to move now in Victoria, but South Australian Police have advised they have no available resources until June to escort the load from border to border.

Though the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) overseen the system, the alliance shows no sign of laying the blame at its feet.

Rather it says industry has wearied of finger pointing between the three different levels of Government as to who is to blame for the delays. 

It notes the permit system created by the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), “results in a complex interrelationship between the national regulator and over 400 different road asset managers from local governments, to state and even private toll road operators.   Plus also Police and/or State authorised escorts need to be co-ordinated.”

It points to four main issues that a Senate inquiry might usefully tackle:

  • the NHVR has accountability for outcomes over which it has no effective control
  • state governments lost staff and expertise due to excessive cut backs when transferring some responsibilities to NHVR
  • the HVNL formally recognised local governments as road asset owners, even though previously most state government agencies had undertaken OSOM planning and approvals on their behalf.  Local governments don’t have the expertise, resources or frankly the compelling interest in approving OSOM permit moves.
  • police and authorised escorts identified in the original NTC Regulatory Impact Statement.

“Finally even though an operator may have had approval for an OSOM move last week, an application to move the same item on the same equipment on the same route to same destination, requires a new project with all route and bridge assessments being done again from scratch as if no such move had every occurred before,” the alliance statement reads.

For its part, the NHVR supports a review and laid out its reasons to the Queensland parliamentary committee inquiry into HVNL reform, though it acknowledges a decision on when and who would be a matter for shareholding ministers.

“You would have heard industry say that the NHVR is hamstrung by the way that the law was written when we were established.

“There are simple small changes that can be made as bandaid solutions to the problems that arise in areas like government decision-making, but the law needs to be reviewed in its entirety and reviewed now,” an NHVR spokesperson tells ATN.

“It is more than five years since the law came into effect, and it is time that it was assessed for its effectiveness in delivering safety and productivity through harmonisation.

“What we are calling for at the NHVR is a root-and-branch policy based review of the legislation that draws on the views of the industry, the business community, all levels of government — state, local and federal—and all road users. Industry will not see the benefits they want to see from the NHVR — the very reason why we were set up — in productivity and safety until the regulator is given the proper level of legislative authority to act for the benefit of the national interest and for industry.

“We strongly urge that the review of the HVNL be given critical priority in the committee’s report as the legislation is currently not fit for purpose and is not allowing the NHVR to deliver the real reforms we were set up to do.

“We strongly urge the committee to consider recommending a review of the law with broad terms of reference to commence in 2018.

“The ministerial council will face a decision in May about this, and what we want to do is ensure that the decision they make meets the need of industry and community in its comprehensiveness.”


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