Sweeping new changes proposed in national law overhaul

More flexibility for fatigue management and new fitness to drive requirements are just two major driver-related reforms that transport ministers have supported in the latest Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) roundtable.

The proposals were part of an array of changes put forward by independent consultant Ken Kanofski, the former CEO of NSW Roads and Maritime Services, that could become part of the next HVNL.

Ministers agreed to release Kanofski’s report, and to progress a package of propositions recommended by Kanofski that will improve safety and productivity in the heavy vehicle sector, said a communique.

The suggested reforms include more flexibility for the fatigue general schedule, including a 10-hour break reset option, with the idea being floated to possibly expand fatigue laws to include all 4.5t + vehicles.

This means BFM and AFM will essentially become merged so operators can demonstrate better risk management systems to get more flexibility, while fatigue record keeping will be moved to regs to make it easier to change prescriptive requirements with incentives to be added to adopt EWDs.

Ken Kanofski.

Fatigue enforcement would also focus on immediate risks, not historic offences, with regular reviews of penalties and practices to determine a new approach to overall risk profiling.

“The rectification of administrative oversight at the roadside should be the primary mechanism for addressing administrative errors,” the Kanofski report says.

“If a driver does not rectify administrative errors at the roadside this should lead to issuing a penalty infringement notice.”

Kanofski said infringements for work/rest breaches should shift from focusing on specific incidents to focussing on overall breach risk profiles.

“A fatigue breach risk profile would consider both the number and severity of individual work/rest breaches, and the fines for administrative offences should be proportionate with the risk.”

Kanofski also said that the commercial standards in Australian Fitness to Drive (AFTD) Guidelines should be upgraded to include risk-based screening tests for diabetes, sleep apnoea and cardiovascular issues.

He added that all heavy vehicle drivers should be required to have regular medicals against the standards as part of the driver licensing process.

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association said it looks forward to participating in work to progress the proposals that also include:

  • Raising general access from GML to CML, 19 to 20m length and 4.3m to 4.6m (subject to a RIS).
  • The object of the law to continue to include productivity.
  • More detail will be lowered to regulations and codes of practice.
  • Adopting a Tasmanian-style access system.
  • Exploring a business case for opening up as-of-right key parts of the National Road Transport Network is proposed.
  • Improving PBS.
  • Regular review of penalties and enforcement practices – likely a new approach to overall risk profiling and lower/removed penalties for minor offences.
  • A singular voluntary accreditation system run by NHVR.
  • A national audit standard.
  • Operators can rely on official networks maps rather than gazette notices.
  • Improved tech and data standards.
  • New head of power to establish Heavy Vehicle Safety Obligations.
  • A new power for prescriptive requirements and specific offences for off-road parties.
  • Monthly rego charges to be considered by all jurisdictions.
  • Delegation of powers to the NHVR Board and a review of the Board skills mix.
  • Codes of practice to be developed by the NHVR rather than industry.
  • Vehicle classifications to be moved to regulations.
  • A legal requirement for NHVR to consult industry.

“Ministers resolved to consider further advice from officials on the best mechanism to efficiently deliver this package of reforms across all jurisdictions,” the ministers’ bulletin added.

“Ministers resolved to consider a streamlined workplan in September 2022 that would guide work through to the end of 2023, with a focus on heavy vehicle safety and productivity, decarbonisation and a more consistent approach to the national infrastructure pipeline.”

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