Labor promises progress on national trucking law

trucking law

After months of inexplicable delays – and a costly review – the first draft of the new look Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) should be coming together by the end of the year, promises Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King.

Speaking at Trucking Australia 2023, the Australian Trucking Association’s annual conference on the Sunshine Coast this week, King told attendees that Labor had made “real progress” on the reforms since coming to office 10 months ago.

With the National Transport Commission taking the lead – the same agency that ATA recently blasted for running a circus –  King said a “comprehensive” Regulation Impact Statement has been prepared and is going to transport ministers next month for consideration.

“Our goal is a completely revised Heavy Vehicle National Law that is more flexible, risk-based and that makes better use of new technology,” said King.

“Through this process, governments have agreed to automate, as far as possible, the system through which heavy vehicle operators apply for restricted vehicles access on certain roads – and have begun work together towards that end.”

King said Austroads is coordinating work towards a national, single seamless system for heavy vehicle access, while Victoria is leading work on cost-benefit modelling of providing as-of-right access for high productivity freight vehicles.

“And the National Transport Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator are developing further detail of the new two-tiered system for managing driver fatigue.

“We will be sharing a fuller update on all those actions shortly and – with many of these measures being considered out of session – it gives us time to talk to you but also to get on with our focus on large scale economic reform.”

In order to keep industry informed, King said she was also pleased to announce that heavy vehicle industry representatives will now be invited to attend select Steering Committee meetings to provide their views directly to senior decision makers on particular topics and to discuss progress.

“These reforms matter to you, so you should be involved.”

King also talked about how the Albanese government is already delivering on major freight infrastructure projects, including the Coffs Harbour bypass, and additional funding for the Nowra Bridge, among others.

She also updated the conference on the new rest area steering committee and said that applications seeking a share of the $140 million will be invited in the first half of the year.

“Of course, though, none of these investments come cheap,” added King when discussing the proposed changes to the Road User Charge.

“The reality is, road upgrades cost money.

“Governments across Australia are planning to spend around $33 billion on roads in the 2023-24 financial year alone.

“In total, cost recovery from heavy vehicle operators is set to raise $3.8 billion over the next twelve months – with roughly 60 per cent of that coming through the road user charge.

“At the same time, the fuel tax credit – a measure the previous government put in jeopardy by not consulting with you when they dropped the fuel excise – sees $8 billion returned to the industry every year.”

King said any decision state and commonwealth ministers take on the RUC will be designed to lock in certainty over the next three years.

“We all want better roads – nobody more so than truck drivers – but we have to be able to fund them. Particularly as we have the Victorian Farmers Federation, the Local Government Association and the Automobile Association calling for billions of dollars in additional funding, particularly on our regional roads.

“That’s what responsible governments do – they listen, they deliberate and they take decisions in everyone’s interests.”

King also touched on the role industry is playing in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

She said transport is predicted to become Australia’s largest source of emissions by 2030.

“With our commitment to net-zero emissions we need to drive these down – whether it be through hydrogen highways, electric vehicles, or cleaner fuels.”

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