Overhaul national truck laws for safety and productivity

The national truck laws should be overhauled to deliver increased safety and productivity, the Chair of the Australian Trucking Association, David Smith, said today.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) is reviewing the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and has released a consultation regulation impact statement (RIS) on potential changes.

Mr Smith said the HVNL needed to be comprehensively overhauled to deliver risk-based safety and productivity improvements.

“The scope of the law needs to be expanded to cover any party with influence over heavy vehicle transport activities, including online freight matching platforms, facility owners and operators, and truck repairers,” Mr Smith said.

“Many of the provisions of the law should be moved to the regulations so they can be changed more easily when required.

“As part of this process, though, the fines for prescriptive offences -such as failing to draw a line in the right place on a work diary page – should be dramatically reduced. Warnings should be used more often, and there should be policies in place to withdraw infringement notices for matters already dealt with under an employer’s safety management system.

“The current high penalties for minor paperwork errors do not increase safety. They are, instead, a frustrating maze of random hazards for drivers.”

Mr Smith said that businesses should have more voluntary options to move away from paper record keeping.

“Operators should also be notified electronically about defect notices and have online access to safety related driving infringements,” he said.

Mr Smith said that research commissioned by the ATA showed the productivity of the transport, postal and warehousing sector had fallen steadily since the HVNL came into force in 2014.

“That’s why we are proposing bold initiatives to increase productivity without affecting safety,” he said.

“For example, the productivity benefits of performance based standards should be unlocked by transferring some PBS vehicle designs to the prescriptive heavy vehicle fleet, so they can be used by any operator.

“Governments also need to develop a modular high productivity freight vehicle framework and network.”

Mr Smith thanked ATA members for their detailed input to the submissions.

“So far, our internal consultation process on the RIS has involved nine workshops with members, two Industry Technical Council working groups and an industry-wide survey of truck drivers that generated 432 responses and a social media reach of more than 46,000.

“We will consult our members further, as we complete our detailed formal submissions on assurance and accreditation, fatigue, and access,” he said.

The ATA and its member associations collectively represent the businesses and people of the Australian trucking industry. Together, the ATA and its members are committed to safety, professionalism, and viability.

Read the ATA submissions

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