The release of a Regulatory Impact Statement by the National Transport Commission setting out the options for the new Heavy Vehicle National Law is, for once in a generation, an opportunity presented to the trucking industry to get out of the old 1970s thinking around trucking regulation and a chance to join a new world of 21st century trucking.
The quote at the top of the HVNL 2.0 scenario illustration which the NTC released this week says it all, this process is, “a first-principles review of the HVNL on behalf of the Transport and Infrastructure Council. The goal is to deliver a modern, outcome-focused law for regulating heavy vehicle transport in Australia.”
The RIS delivers all of the buzz-words of the modern legislator. Everything is outcome-driven or a risk-based approach is to be taken. It’s going to be a flexible approach which will empower the trucking industry to gain from innovation and technology etc, etc.
This is a real chance to make something which really works now and designed with enough wriggle room to be able to develop as the trucking industry, itself, develops. Now is not the time to complain about the vast array of issues in the past, now is the time to make sure the regulation we are to be saddled with for at least the next generation, and maybe longer, is fit for purpose.
Fit for purpose doesn’t mean it has to give the trucking industry lots of concessions to make its life easier. What it means is that the ground is laid for road transport to do what it always has done, namely get stuff moved from A to B, safely and extremely efficiently.
What needs to be changed is not the basic premise about moving freight legally and for the greater benefit of society. Instead, the change needs to be how we demonstrate that we are doing the right thing.
The new law also needs to incentivise us to do the right thing, something it currently does not do. At the moment, an operator does the right thing and tries to make a buck, at the same time. Then they see their truck pulled over to hunt down some unimportant petty offence, while the competitor who runs a dodgy operation flies by the parking bay, untouched.
It looks like the new law envisaged by the NTC will reward that operator who runs a straight show and endeavours to be fully complaint in reality. Hopefully, box ticking is not going to cut it anymore and spelling mistakes are no longer a punishable offence.
What the NTC seems to be aiming for is quite complicated and is going to need to be carefully examined by everyone to see whether the proposed changes will get us the intended benefits.
A simple example is the idea of using fatigue monitoring technology to allow an operation to work in a way where fatigue might become an issue. The idea is the technology mitigates the risk and this is taken into account by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator when checking the fleet’s performance.
This means the NHVR is going to have to assess each new fatigue fighting black box as it comes to the market. They will all have different methodologies and have different effects on fatigue management. The NHVR will have to grade them in terms of what can be allowed when they are in use. This may be a slow process in a fast moving technology field.
This is just one example of the brave new world we are looking forward to and the industry needs to look carefully at the options and bring forward a unified view to ensure a practical outcome. We have a chance to look this gift horse in the mouth and come up with a plan of action which will be acceptable in the corridors of power and also at the roadside.
Comments need to be sent to the NTC before October 25 2020.