There is a process going on to reform the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and the trucking industry is being asked to get involved in making sure they are getting the new law right. Some of the stakeholders presented their views at the NatRoad Conference.
The reform of the HVNL it is an unusual event in federal and the state legislation. It is very rare for a law to be completely taken off the books and replaced with a completely new set of laws, after a period of direct consultation with the industry on which it is legislating.
Opportunities like these don’t come around very often and it is up to the trucking industry and its representatives to get stuck in with the consultation process, which is happening now, to see if a sensible workable law can be brought into being.
This reform process will be setting the agenda and the limitations within which the trucking industry have to work for at least the next 30 years. The current law is yet another iteration of a law which has been amended every few years for the past 85 years. The new law looks set to be a completely new 21st-century piece of legislation custom designed for purpose, if the consultation period is effective.
One of the stakeholders with the most to gain from getting the new law right is the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) itself. The organisation was set up in what became a rushed scenario where a compromised HVNL was passed through the Queensland Parliament, enabling legislation with some derogations to be passed in the parliaments of the other states involved in being regulated by the NHVR.
From the NHVR’s point of view it is constantly being held back by what it sees as flaws in the basic law which have the effect of working against what works best for the trucking industry. At the NatRoad Conference opening the Chair of the NHVR, Duncan Gay did not hold back in expressing his disdain for a law, one which his NSW Government Department, at the time, was involved in drafting.
“Over the coming year I look forward to working with the trucking industry to position us to better meet future challenges,” said Duncan. “The vital need is for additional help for productivity, growing the industry safety culture, and incorporating new technologies.
“The opportunity is here for the NHVR and the industry to work with government on the next round of reforms. The most important one, the absolutely overriding one is getting the HVNL right. We can’t set up sensible changes to fatigue if we’re locked in to a law that won’t let us. Most, but not all, of the problems made by ourselves and others, particularly on fatigue is because, in many areas, the current law is, frankly, crap.
“My message? Make sure that you don’t miss telling anyone who is on the HVNL reform committee, how important the law changes are to get a better system for fatigue. Unless the law is changed we can’t do it better. We are hamstrung by the law. Get that message to them, there are some good people on the committee. Remind them every chance you get.”