The Australian Logistics Council seems to be intent on stirring up a hornet’s nest in a move which is not only baffling, but seems to be designed to undo a lot of the good work done in recent years. The proposal might have had validity if it had been made in 2000, but it is out of touch in 2021.
The call for a national operating standard to be included in the new Heavy Vehicle National Law, by the ALC, sees the big end of town going out on a limb and negating a lot of hard work and useful negotiation which has been going on in the last two decades.
Over twenty years ago, the trucking industry was just getting its head around being properly regulated. Concepts like TruckSafe were gaining traction, instigating the States to come up with their National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme in response.
At that point a comprehensive method of regulating and accrediting operators might have got off the ground, but even then there was very little political will to load an extra red tape burden on operators, just so they could get out on the road.
Instead, around that time the trucking industry and government seemed to reach some sort of consensus on the way forward, transparency and safety in return for improved productivity and efficiency.
This is how schemes like Performance Based Standards worked, the operator went the extra mile improved safety and road wear outcomes in return for more efficient trucks and access, it was a quid pro quo arrangement.
We have seen access to these higher productivity trucks drive policy and technical solutions throughout the trucking fleet and lead to the trucking operators in Australia today to be much more proactive on safety and willing to be accountable for their actions, in return for being able to run at higher masses, over different routes and with more flexible scheduling.
The simple act of fitting on board mass monitoring equipment solves problems on either side of the ledger. The road authorities know the trucks are not overweight and destroying bridges, while the operator gets an extra tonne or two of pudding.
Now, we are getting to the point where the quid pro quo is being built into the proposals already on the table in the HVNL. If you fit a safety device in your truck which has a proven record of improving safety outcomes, you will get a more flexible approach to driving hours regulations.
In essence, we already have something approximating an operating standard, which works well for all parties and has helped both truckers and regulators to get their jobs done in a more efficient and less adversarial way, without stirring up a hornet’s nest.
It has been developed in an ad hoc way, targeting the worst areas of concern, but has created certainty for both regulators and operators, enabling the roadside enforcement to better target the real offenders and seen operators doing the right thing able to compete more effectively with those determined to do the wrong thing.