In its submission to the National Transport Commission, the Australian Logistics Council is asking for an amendment to the structure of the Heavy Vehicle National Law, with a call for a national operator standard.
This call is certain to receive a negative reaction from large swathes of the trucking industry, in which small independent operators with a few trucks predominate. Any legal requirement like this can be expected to be a much greater impost on small operators, reducing their ability to compete with the large corporate entities of the larger national fleets.
An operator standard would require all truck operators to provide the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator with a list of heavy vehicles it operates and garaging information. According to the ALC, this would impose minimal administration costs on the operator and would provide the NHVR with information as to the size of the industry being regulated in those jurisdictions where the HVNL is in operation.
The ALC is also asking for the HVNL to ensure that each heavy vehicle has installed equipment compliant with ISO 15638, the standard created to apply to trucks using intelligent transport systems (ITS) in the future. These fleet management systems will require data communication between in-vehicle systems and an application service provider via on-board communication unit interfacing with road monitoring infrastructure and roadside sensors.
The ALC argues this kind of system will provide regulators with information that can be used in the investigation of alleged breaches of the HVNL, as well as providing operators with data that can be used to manage safety outcomes or otherwise provide road owners with information that can be used when applying for access to routes.
According to the submission from the ALC, the cost of the installation of a compliant unit capable of collecting information in an appropriate format is now relatively modest. Suggesting, many modern heavy vehicles have the relevant capacity as part of its original equipment.
The ALC submission does not stop there, calling for operators to be required to maintain a safety management system (SMS) that meets standards established pursuant to an instrument under the HVNL.
“More sophisticated operators, such as those who are members of ALC, may choose to have an SMS audited by an accredited auditor so as to either gain access to particular routes, to other ‘statutory benefits’, or who otherwise propose managing safety through following the SMS rather than more granular statutory performance standards,” says the statement from the ALC on this topic.
The ALC is also calling for a financial test before operators are allowed to operate, asking that the standard require a registered operator have sufficient capital available to ensure efficient safe operation of the heavy vehicles operated by the registrant.