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Trucks must accommodate drivers, NatRoad says

September 12, 2019

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has called for increased driver comfort and efficiency in truck design requirements as part of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review.

In its submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) vehicle standards and safety issues paper, NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said that the organisation has “emphasised that vehicle standards must reflect current market conditions, up-to-date safety measures and be accessible and transparent”.

“These principles should be translated into how technical standards for heavy vehicles are developed. That way they will be more supportive of driver and operator needs,” Mr Clark said.

“Rather than focusing on these specific criteria, the current law is deficient because compliance is centred on prescriptive, offence based HVNL requirements.  Meeting these requirements does not necessarily equate with being safe.

“We also focus on how vehicle standards should accommodate the safety of drivers by taking into account human factors. In the submission we urge a change in dimensions of width and length.

“The issue of length, particularly length to 20 metres for general access, is vital to make sure the additional space is utilised to accommodate a larger sleeping berth.  Driver comfort with appropriate rest should be given a priority in the design requirements of heavy vehicles.”

Mr Clark says in the submission, NatRoad has also argued for “greater attention on faster and more efficient approval for high-performance vehicles”.

“Relatedly, there does not appear to be a government priority in putting in place road networks for Performance-Based Standards (PBS) Vehicles,” he said.

“PBS vehicles carry freight more efficiently and are safer than other vehicles in the heavy vehicle fleet.  The rules relating to PBS vehicles must reflect these factors.”

NatRoad has also asked the NTC to “compare the range of prescriptive, pedantic offences with the law changes that came into force October last year”.

“From that date, the primary duty established by s26C HVNL is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the party’s transport activities relating to a heavy vehicle,” Mr Clark said.

“The large number of prescriptive, harsh offences that still populate the HVNL should be culled as they undermine the intent of this broader duty.  That is because the current offences often focus on behaviour that is not unsafe as with the example of a minor, inadvertent escape of material from a load, which is an automatic offence under the law.”

Mr Clark said NatRoad looks forward to continuing to assist the NTC in this review.

NatRoad’s submission can be found here.

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