Progress on the Project

Diesel News is looking at progress on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator project, which is destined to take a long time to reach fruition.

The trucking industry has had to wait a long time to see even the glimmer of a rational national regulatory system for heavy vehicles across the country. The many years of competing state legislation creating nightmares for interstate operators and filling the revenue coffers with unwarranted fines are, hopefully, now behind us.

The NHVR has been with us as a project for about eight years, and as a reality for nearly four. When the idea was first mooted, it was widely welcomed by the trucking industry. However, it struggled against resistance from inside some state bureaucracies when transforming from a project in development to a reality at the beginning of 2014.

This resistance nearly brought it to its knees at one point, but once the NHVR was stabilised, by mid-2014, some progress began to be made. Funding issues from reluctant states were resolved and some effective systems began to appear, but there was still uncertainty about its future.

In more recent times, the organisation has managed to kick some goals and re-establish its credibility with the trucking industry. Some of its major projects are being seen as effective and there is a clear road map of progress to be seen.

One of the architects of this reconstruction and return to stability, and the person tasked with the job of driving the NHVR project towards its intended goal is, CEO, Sal Petroccitto. From his first appearance in the role, surrounded by the ruins of a failing access permit processing system, he has been a calm voice, never over-promising and stating clear and simple objectives.

From the time of those first crisis-mitigating statements, Sal has become a familiar figure at industry events, telling the NHVR story and, often, appearing as a double act with National Transport Commission (NTC) CEO, Paul Retter.

It would not be true to say the trucking industry is happy with everything the NHVR has come up with and actions it has taken. However, it is certainly true, there is a grudging respect for the achievements of the NHVR in recent years and a recognition the regulatory situation for the trucking industry is much improved.

Most aspects of the NHVR program are still in some form of development or in staged implementation. The next twelve months look like a period over which the final picture will become much clearer and some real progress is expected to be made on some of the cornerstones of a future NHVR.

Diesel took the opportunity to sit down with Sal in his office at NHVR HQ in Brisbane and get his perspective on the years ahead and the aims of the NHVR.

Technical Issues

The niggling problems associated with a consistent roller brake testing regime continue, with the trial period being extended again, until January next year. The problem appeared after the National Heavy Vehicle Inspection Manual (NHVIM) was released and New South Wales rules were realigned with those of the rest of the country.

Procedures have been under scrutiny since it was found some of the procedures were assessing a braking system to be non-compliant when it was, in fact, within the rules. A testing day was arranged at Marulan where the new procedures were tried out on a number of vehicles. As a result of this testing, a delay until 31 January 2018 has been agreed for further research.

“Realistically, the thing I have found most beneficial is the preparedness of the industry top come and work with us,” says Sal. “It has been very successful.”

Earlier this year the NHVR carried out something it called the ‘National Heavy Vehicle Health Check’, where 7,130 vehicles were inspected. The results showed younger vehicles were five times less likely to have a major non-conformity than vehicles 10-years and older. Eleven per cent of hauling units and about 14 per cent of trailers recorded a major non-conformity. Overall, only 147 vehicle units were grounded during the exercise.

“It reaffirmed to us that, overall, the condition of the fleet which we saw was generally healthy,” says Sal. “We do know age is still a contributing factor, but we also know, in the main, line-haul vehicles’ age is not too bad. I think the opportunity to look at a risk-based framework is a possibility and we will bring that through to the ministerial table next year.”

The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) is under NHVR scrutiny. There have been changes to auditing rules and testing. The number of vehicles in an accreditation scheme is rising. Any future structure will begin to be discussed in 2018.

The area of roadworthiness assessment is sometimes a fraught issue. The states control the NHVAS and are protective of the regulatory concessions that come along with membership. On the other hand, TruckSafe can claim to adhere to higher standards, but is still being shut out of any concession. As a result, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is pushing hard for a commitment for equal treatment under any new regime.

“We’ve inherited a legacy outcome,” says Sal. “We think we can improve the outcome. We have never said NHVAS will be the system. What we have said is that’s the system we have currently got. We are working to improve the concerns that have been raised. It’s still in evolution.

“The discussion around whether accreditation schemes should be given regulatory benefits, if they are not a regulatory entity. I think that’s a valid discussion, but more work needs to be done.”

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