In a media release last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, announced that a comprehensive review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is under way to look at ways to “boost national road safety and productivity delivery”.
The review’s terms of reference, submitted by the National Transport Commission (NTC), were recently approved by the Transport and Infrastructure Council of Federal, State and Territory Ministers, Mr McCormack said.
He said that “The NTC’s terms of reference reflect the widely held view that the HVNL, in its current form, falls short of being truly national and is overly prescriptive and complicated”.
The HVNL currently applies in every Australian jurisdiction except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Mr McCormack said “It is now widely accepted that while the first iteration of the HVNL in 2012 was an improvement on the previous multi-jurisdictional situation, it now needs to be comprehensively overhauled”.
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) welcomed the announcement. ATA Chair, Geoff Crouch, said “At 633 pages, the national truck law is more than three times the length of the Civil Aviation Act, which governs air travel, and more than four times the length of the Rail Safety National Law, which regulates train safety”.
“The national truck law needs to be looked at again from first principles, and the review announced today will deliver the back to basics approach that we so desperately need,” he said.
Members’ organisation for trucking business owners, NatRoad, also welcomed the review.
NatRoad’s CEO, Warren Clark, said “We must introduce a risk-based regulatory system. We must move away from the approach of mere compliance with specific rules. A newly framed HVNL should be about the management of risk. This is especially the case with the fatigue management provisions of the HVNL which contain a vast array of highly prescriptive elements, but for example, do not lead to the identification and control of impairment based on being fatigued.”
“The current law can lead to a perverse outcome of being compliant but not always safe,” he said.
Mr Clark said the law should be “more focused on safety” and “less concerned with revenue raising” and “simpler and more accessible to the thousands of operators who must comply”.
NatRoad will be running a number of forums throughout 2019 where members and non-members in the industry “can express their views about the way the new laws should be drafted”.
“[G]rassroots feedback is essential,” Mr Clark said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the HVNL right. Operators’ voices must be heard and NatRoad will do everything in its power to ensure that they are listened to.”
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