The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has asked a national meeting of Australian transport ministers to restart the stalled Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) reform process by taking up a series of relatively quick and practical actions.
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark addressed the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting (ITMM) in Melbourne on Friday and told them that the history of HVNL reform is “one of glacial pace and epic navel gazing”.
Clark said NatRoad also broadly supports the recommendations of the Ken Kanofski review because most are focused on changes that are achievable in the near term.
Details of the report by the former RMS CEO are still to be made public, but ministers were briefed by Kanofski, and also heard presentations from the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), the Australian Logistics Council (ALC), the National Transport Commission (NTC) and Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).
“Over the past four years, those charged with driving reform have lost sight of first principles and ignored easy wins to the point that they have lost industry confidence,” Clark added.
“HVNL reform must be about improving access for heavy vehicles and thus boosting national productivity.
“HVNL should enhance safety through sensible, evidence-based changes to fatigue rules that scrap petty, prescriptive offences.
“If they are agreed to by all jurisdictions, the Kanofski review’s recommendations represent a sensible consensus position from which to keep moving forward.”
Clark told the ministers road transport needed a national approach to access, using technology to map road freight routes.
“Operators should be able to lodge a notice of intention to use roads and bridges that have been pre-approved for specific classes of heavy vehicles,” he added.
“Reforming fatigue and enforcement will send the right message that improving safety and increasing productivity are urgent.”
Clark said the current fatigue rules deter drivers from remaining in the industry and act against voluntary uptake of electronic work diaries.
“Nobody is defending drivers who deliberately break laws intended to stop dangerous or irresponsible behaviour,” Clark said.
“The overriding principle here must be that punishment is in proportion to risk and petty offences like making a spelling mistake in a work diary should be subject to a formal warning system.”
ALC CEO Dr Hermione Parsons welcomed the recommendations of the Kanofski review and noted that industry participants wanted to see tangible progress on the HVNL.
“We acknowledge the critical importance of getting the review of HVNL right and ensuring that those developing the new law are engaged with those the law impacts,” said Parsons.
“This review has gone on for some time and with the Kanofski review complete, it is the view of ALC that we have reached a point of consensus – that it is time for progress, it is time to get on with the job of implementing the Kanofski review and providing a frustrated industry with an action plan for a safer, more productive road transport sector.”
Despite the years of delay, ALC’s position is the Kanofski review has achieved positive progress.
ALC’s head of government and policy Rachel Smith said it was time to achieve consensus and noted a number of ALC proposals had been adopted in the review.
“ALC appreciates the opportunity to present to ITMM and we now want to move ahead with the recommendations of the Kanofski review, as a holistic package,” said Smith.
“ALC welcomes Kanofski recommending a number of our positions in regard to the law, on productivity improvement as an objective of the law, fatigue enforcement, safety management systems and a national audit system.”
According to the subsequent communique, ministers have agreed to release Kanofski’s report, and to progress a package of propositions that will “improve safety and productivity in the heavy vehicle sector.”
“Ministers resolved to consider further advice from officials on the best mechanism to efficiently deliver this package of reforms across all jurisdictions,” the statement added.