A root and branch rewrite of the Heavy Vehicle National Law is taking place and after extensive consultation, the Regulatory Impact Statement released by the National Transport Commission sees the agency looking for 21st century rules to take the trucking industry forward.
If there is one thing all of the stakeholders around the development of the all-new Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) can agree on, it is that the current law is inadequate to cope with the kind of regulation needed to take the trucking industry into the future, as technology and changing demands recalibrate the way the industry sector will function.
The process started some time ago with the National Transport Commission (NTC) being tasked with drafting a completely new law as the inadequacies of the current HVNL became more apparent. The current regime was cobbled together as the government tried to unify rules around the time of the founding of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and those rules turned out to be exactly what they are, an inadequate compromise.
When the transport ministers of Australia decided to ask the NTC to come up with a new set of rules back in November 2018, they were not asking for a change in the basic principles behind the law, but instead, were asking for, ‘reforms that could improve the effectiveness of the HVNL’.
During the first consultation period, an expert panel was created to sift through submissions and to advise the NTC about how any new law would be able to achieve that aim. Representing the trucking industry on that panel were South Australian trucking operator, Sharon Middleton as well as Gary Mahon, CEO at the Queensland Trucking Association and Louise Bilato, who performs a similar role in the Northern Territory.
After the first consultation period ended, the NTC drafted a long and complex document, the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), a paper which runs out to 192 pages. This document is being pored over by stakeholders who are being invited to make submissions to the NTC before the final drafting of the new law takes place. Submissions have to reach the NTC by October 25, 2020.
This is the document which many, in both the authorities and those representing the trucking industry’s interests, will be ploughing through to get a handle on how the future HVNL may affect their interests.
For the rest of us, the job of trying to get a full sense of the implications of all of the bureaucratic language being used may be above our pay scale. For those with a shorter attention span, the NTC have also published a 24-page HVNL 2.0 scenario document which is aimed at showing the industry what the new law could, but does not have to, look like.
According to HVNL 2.0, the future HVNL should be a modern law that provides a flexible, risk-based regulatory framework to ensure the safe and efficient operation of heavy vehicles on Australian roads. It should also empower industry and government to take advantage of future innovation and technology opportunities to improve safety and reduce costs to benefit the community, industry and governments.
These basic principles are not currently set in stone and stakeholders wishing to make a comment or suggestion, based on the information in HVNL 2.0 or the longer RIS need to get their submissions into the NTC before October 25, 2020.