Australia’s transport ministers have issued police and other authorised officers with improved powers to investigate breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and, where appropriate, impose sanctions.
Chief executive of the National Transport Commission Paul Retter said that while the overwhelming majority of Australia’s transport industry complied with the law and worked hard to keep everyone safe, the improved investigative and enforcement powers would help to make Australia’s roads safer for everyone.
“We know there are a small number of people, whether they be operators, drivers or other parties in the chain of responsibility, who try to cheat the system. These changes to the HVNL will help the authorities crack down on illegal practices that put people’s safety at risk – not just people who work in the transport industry but anyone who uses the road.
“Where possible these policy changes have been designed to make the rules easier to comply with by more closely aligning them to existing workplace safety regulations.”
The policy changes give authorities additional powers to investigate individual crashes and address the systemic causes of crashes.
Designated authorised officers will be able to issue prohibition notices to address an immediate safety risk.
Whole fleet maintenance inspections – name and shame
Companies found to have systemic maintenance issues may be subjected to an inspection of the entire fleet or class of vehicles if the authorities have a reasonable belief that they are defective.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will also be given the power to publish the outcomes of successful prosecutions (naming and shaming), giving the public and industry tangible evidence about the effectiveness of chain of responsibility (CoR) laws and providing important lessons for industry on safety.
Courts will also have powers to issue injunctions to address ongoing safety risks.
Mr Retter said the changes would give “real teeth” to CoR laws, which hold the whole supply chain accountable for their role in preventing road crashes.
Following a policy review to ensure that investigative and enforcement powers were appropriate for the new CoR duties that will commence in mid-2018, transport ministers met and approved the policy changes on 19 May 2017. A draft bill will now be developed and submitted to transport ministers for their consideration at their next scheduled meeting in November this year.
Executive officer liability
Mr Retter said ministers also approved amendments to the HVNL that give effect to the NTC’s policy work on executive officer liability, specifically requiring executive officers to take positive steps to ensure that their organisation meets its key safety obligations under the HVNL.
Additional NHVL amendments include:
- increasing general mass limits for twin-steer semitrailer combinations to improve productivity, and
- recognising ‘tag trailers’ through a new definition.
Minsters also approved changes to the vehicle standards legislation including labels for electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, much like those required for LPG and natural gas-fuelled vehicles.
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