National Heavy Vehicle Regulator CEO, Sal Petroccitto explains that NHVR’s role is to work together with the trucking industry, supporting and sustaining industry growth. It needs to do things differently, to deliver consistency and certainty for operators, drivers, and supply chain parties.
Australia’s road freight task represents the fifth largest freight task globally and is growing at almost twice the rate of our population. This is both a motivating and challenging reality.
We’re seeing more jobs, growth and opportunity being realised, and now more than ever, Australians are relying on road transport to deliver vital supplies. The NHVR’s role is to ensure we can support and sustain this significant growth. This means working together to do things differently, to deliver consistency and certainty for operators, drivers, and supply chain parties.
The NHVR is well progressed in delivering a number of key projects, focussed on improving and increasing productivity, as well as safety across the heavy vehicle industry and supply chain.
In August last year, we released our five-year Heavy Vehicle Productivity Plan. The plan details 31 projects that promote future growth and opportunity, with more than 250 government and industry stakeholders consulted as part of its development.
Key progress has been made on the plan and a scorecard of this progress is on the NHVR’s website. It outlines work underway or completed to deliver on key objectives of access certainty and consistency, partnering with local government to build capacity, and promoting safer and more productive heavy vehicles that are better for the environment and communities
Of particular interest is the recent funding boost for the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project (SLGAAP) which will enable assessments of up to 1,000 local government road assets over the next three years, with the intention of opening up increased network access outcomes.
The first phase of the project was successful and included assessments of 300 assets across 74 local government areas in rural and regional Australia, resulting in the removal of mass restrictions and a reduction in permits.
The more assets that can be accessed by a broader range of heavy vehicles, the greater the level of productivity. The asset information gathered from SLGAAP plays a key role in the NHVR’s National Spatial Platform.
The platform, due to launch early next year, will give industry access to important information on approved routes and road conditions in one location for the first time. It will also match the thousands of trucks that traverse the country every day with the most efficient and productive road networks.
For road train operators, the National Road Train Prime Mover Mass and Dimension Notice is in place and delivering benefits to operators. The Notice provides greater flexibility to industry by removing the need to switch out prime movers when decoupling to finish journeys. This enables increased use of standardised trailer sets and more efficient use of existing combinations.
The NHVR is also focused on providing increased flexibility to encourage greater uptake of safer and more productive Performance Based Standards (PBS) vehicles, including removing the barriers to access a broader range of PBS tyre options.
This would be a significant improvement for PBS vehicles, allowing the current approach to be streamlined, and delivering a reduction in costs and practical difficulties that industry currently experience.
We anticipate that changes should also support a move to transition mature PBS designs to the general fleet, enabling the scheme to have an increased focus on innovation.
When it comes to fatigue, we’re continuing to work collectively with drivers and operators to better manage and mitigate fatigue and distraction, particularly for drivers.
In January this year, having consulted with a range of industry stakeholders over a two-year period, the NHVR outlined its vision for managing fatigue and distraction in its submission to the National Transport Commission’s review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
I support the general consensus across the industry that more can be done to enhance and bring flexibility to fatigue laws, without compromising on safety.
Our submission set out options to provide increased flexibility to enable drivers to rest when they are fatigued, provide a clear and agreed authority for drivers to stop when they are not fit to drive, and recognise safety technologies that are proven to better manage individual driver fatigue safety risks.
Ultimately, it is in everyone’s benefit to have a law that is clear, concise and develops greater levels of communication between the NHVR, drivers and operators. In doing so, we will achieve increased success and safety.
While the NHVR continues discussions with government and industry to deliver an improved HVNL, we are getting on with delivering fatigue risk management training and education among drivers and operators.
In the past 18 months, the NHVR has delivered our Fatigue Choices customer program to 134 operators in locations across Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and online.
The program helps drivers and operators understand the fatigue flexibility options available to them, including Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM).
AFM is the most comprehensive, advanced, and flexible plan available to drivers and operators. It’s also a plan designed with safety at the front of mind, with studies showing that AFM-accredited operators have better fatigue risk management systems, a strong safety culture and better communication with drivers.
For drivers working for an AFM accredited operator, studies showed they worked fewer hours, with fewer infringements and crashes.
Industry has told us for some time now that they want greater levels of flexibility and responsibility, and the NHVR will continue to develop accredited plans like AFM that are safe and meet the needs of drivers and operators.
More information, including a booklet titled ‘Advance Fatigue Management: preparation to apply’, can be found on the NHVR’s website, and I encourage operators to take advantage of looking into initiatives like AFM that provide more flexibility in meeting fatigue requirements and improving safety.
Ultimately, the NHVR exists to engage, educate, and enhance the safety and productivity of the industry. We’ll continue to do this, while balancing effective measures of productivity, safety, efficiency, technology, and innovation.