Industry divided on Heavy Vehicle National Law that started on Monday (10 February)

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From Monday 10 February, there is one Heavy Vehicle National Law regulating trucks, buses and other heavy vehicles across most of Australia, with the aim of ‘boosting efficiency and productivity in the transport industry.’

Under the new Heavy Vehicle National Law, all heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes will operate under one rule book covering Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss congratulated the participating state and territory governments, the National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator on achieving the consistent laws.

“The single Heavy Vehicle National Law will relieve the transport industry of unnecessary and costly red tape, while ensuring a consistent safety regime for heavy vehicles on our road. The benefits include:

reducing paperwork and administration costs for businesses operating across state borders;

creating a one-stop-shop for heavy vehicle accreditation and roads access permits; and

instituting new work diary arrangements for managing driver fatigue.

“This important agreement across state lines is expected to boost the national economy by more than $12 billion over the next 20 years,” Mr Truss said.

“The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator opened its doors in January 2013 and has been managing the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme and the Performance Based Standards Scheme.

“With the commencement of the National Law (…), the regulator (is now) responsible for heavy vehicle compliance with national vehicle standards and for regulating drivers and the industry’s safety practices.

“Importantly, the regulator will also oversee vehicle loading and manage permit applications for roads access.

“While Western Australia and the Northern Territory are yet to implement the national law, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will continue to work with them to address cross-border issues for heavy vehicle operators.

“The heavy vehicle industry is the lifeblood of our economy and the Coalition Government is committed to reducing red tape and compliance costs for businesses and implementing measures that improve safety for operators and the community.

“We have already clocked in a new Australian Design Rule requiring either Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) or load proportioning brake systems for new heavy trailers, and combined with the recent mandating of ABS for new heavy vehicles, these new rules are expected to save around 50 lives over the next 30 years on Australian roads.

“And behind the wheel, for drivers we are continuing the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme providing improved rest areas and facilities for truck drivers across Australia, while our $300 million Bridges Renewal Programme will improve productivity and access in regional areas.

“We are doing what we set out to do, create a strong economy by making it easier for businesses to do business safely and efficiently, and deliver infrastructure for the 21st century.”

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator can be contacted on 1300 MYNHVR (1300 696 487) or visit the website at: for further information.


Trucking industry welcomes national truck law: [industry]

Australia’s new national truck law will improve safety and generate up to $12.4 billion in economic benefits, the chairman of the Australian Trucking Association, David Simon, said.

The national truck law takes effect in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania today, with some provisions taking effect in the ACT.

Mr Simon said the ATA had campaigned for the national truck law for more than twenty years.

“The national law will improve the trucking industry’s safety. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will be better placed than state road agencies to enforce the law against large industry customers that operate nationally. The NHVR also has the opportunity to work more co-operatively with the safest firms in the industry,” he said.

“The law could potentially create $12.4 billion in economic benefits by enabling the industry to use larger trucks on more routes, improving vehicle standards and removing the inconsistencies in the speed, fatigue and other aspects of the law.

“With our members and other industry groups, the ATA worked very hard to get the new law right. 1,020 issues were identified with the original draft of the law. Many have been fixed; others are on a legislative forward work program.”

Mr Simon said there were still teething issues with the national law.

“The national law will require truck drivers working for businesses accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme to carry more paperwork. This is due to a drafting error,” he said.

“The ATA and its members have urged governments to fix the drafting error as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the NHVR has put in place a six-month transition period for enforcing the provision.

“The trucking industry is also concerned about the NHVR’s proposed budget, $147.5 million in 2014-15. $135 million of this total will be paid by the industry. This is almost $60 million more than the industry is currently charged, yet part of the case for setting up the NHVR was that it would reduce duplication and the industry’s costs.”

Mr Simon said the national truck law included provisions to allow the industry to register codes of practice. Operators that can prove they have complied with a registered code of practice will be considered to have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.

“The ATA will seek to register our safety accreditation scheme, TruckSafe, as an industry code of practice as soon as the NHVR publishes its guidelines for accrediting industry codes.

“TruckSafe is already a registered code of practice in Victoria, and its registration will continue under transitional provisions in the national law,” he said.

National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will not address the problems: union

The Transport Workers’ Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator would not address the economic pressures on drivers which were the major cause of speeding, fatigue and poor maintenance.

“We welcome national uniformity across the road transport industry,” Mr Sheldon said.

“But we need to go further to achieve uniform safety standards and procedures.

“This industry needs national uniformity on ‘Safe Rates’ to stop incentives for drivers and companies to engage in unsafe practices and to make sure that every operator is able to safely maintain their vehicle.

“The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) is the only body that has the capacity to address the economic causes of unsafe practices that result in unfair pressures on drivers to speed, skip rest breaks or delay maintenance to meet impossible deadlines from major clients like Coles.”

A 2012 industry survey showed that 26% of truck drivers in the Coles supply chain are pressured to speed to meet delivery deadlines, 46% skip rest breaks and 40% delay vehicle maintenance because of economic pressure.

In a submission to the RSRT, former New South Wales truck driver Keith McGuickan revealed that trip bonuses are paid to drivers who complete inter-state runs faster than normal driving times, “They admit that they did not take any rest breaks…then do a return drive to the depot that evening and the same process begins again,” said Mr McGuickan.

“Supporting the work of the RSRT to ensure Safe Rates for every driver is the most effective way to save lives,” said Mr Sheldon.

According to the National Transport Commission (NTC), every year around 330 people die on Australian roads in heavy vehicle accidents.

“Simply increasing fines for drivers and transport companies only increases the economic burden they bear and does nothing to reduce the economic pressure to push the limits,” said Mr Sheldon.

“Numerous reports, including from the NTC, have made the link between economic pressure and incentives to engage in unsafe practices.

“What Australians expect is action to prevent truck-related crashes. That’s why we need the RSRT, it’s designed to get to the root of the problem by addressing the economic imbalance in the industry.

“It’s time the Abbott Government steps back from its attack on the RSRT and starts supporting the work of the Tribunal to deliver Safe Rates for all truck drivers and safer roads for all Australians.

“I know of trip bonuses being paid to drivers doing the Sydney to Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane runs if the drivers beat the trip time allowed with normal driving hours to complete these runs. I have witnessed drivers that are paid these bonuses arriving in a Sydney depot so bombed out of their minds that they are unable to stand unassisted when they arrive at the depot. They then skite that they just made the bonus payment. They admit that they did not take any rest breaks. These drivers then do a return drive to the depot (Melbourne or Brisbane) that evening and the same process begins again. Needless to say, these drivers are no longer with us.” – Keith McGuickan

“Most drivers will go into very high levels of debt in order to purchase a lorry owner driver (LOD) business and a truck. More often than not this involved LOD taking out additional mortgages on their family home. LOD can be placed under extreme financial distress by changes to their contractual relationships or by significant downturns in work. That anxiety carries on to the road. In those circumstances, drivers do whatever they can do to make money out of the business, such as not maintaining the vehicle properly. A desperate bloke on the road behind the wheel of a loaded concrete truck (or any heavy vehicle) is a very dangerous thing” – Ray Childs

“I did night shift for years and I would often be scared to drive near or overtake some of the trucks that you came across. I would often see large B-Doubles travelling relatively slowly, for example, 80 km/hr and wandering all over the road, and you know its just from fatigue.” – Eric Pickering

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