A leading trucking association believes that the NHVR has jumped the gun in releasing a discussion paper exploring options for applying the Safer Freight Vehicle (SFV) reforms.
The proposed reforms include increasing the overall width of trucks up to 2.55m or 2.6m, providing they are fitted with a mandatory technology package.
But Adam Ritzinger, the chief technical officer at Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia – the peak body behind the Brisbane Truck Show – said inviting industry comment is an odd move that is likely to cause confusion.
Ritzinger said the paper’s release means the regulator is seeking public comment on regulatory changes that have not yet been signed off by ministers.
“The release of the NHVR’s implementation plan has confusingly put the cart before the horse,” Ritzinger said.
“Yet despite that, a greater concern is that the NHVR has considered implementation of wider trailers, which needs further detailed impact assessment before any decision can be made.”
He said HVIA’s position on truck and trailer width has been clear since 2019, and strongly articulated to all levels of government:
- Any changes to regulations must apply a ‘no disadvantage’ test for Australian industry
- Current limits to truck width can restrict model availability and add costs to the industry – HVIA supports increasing truck width to 2.55 metres, with axle mass limit increases
- Current limits to trailer width do not limit model availability, nor add cost to the industry, and are not a productivity impediment – therefore, HVIA does not support blanket increases to trailer width.
“In the past, HVIA has called for a RIS [regulatory impact statement] that segments the trailer market, and evaluates the impacts on a case-by-case basis,” Ritzinger added.
“It is absolutely critical that the impact on the competitiveness of the Australian industry and the retooling costs are adequately considered.”
Analysis of the detail of the proposed implementation plan further highlights the need for government to hold off on increasing trailer width, he said.
HVIA’s national policy and government relations manager Greg Forbes said the proportion of trucks with the safer freight SFV package fitted needs to be large enough before changes to trailer width will make sense.
“The model proposed by the NHVR would restrict wider trailers from being towed by vehicles which did not have the full suite of SFV features fitted,” Forbes said.
“This would cause basic interoperability issues for fleets with wider trailers; having a fleet of trucks with and without the safety features would be difficult to manage, in an operational sense.”
The paper also highlights the need to review and update previous industry-led advice regarding brake system interoperability but does not recognise the significant time and effort required.
“The current guide to braking stability and performance for heavy vehicle combinations was the result of several years of collaboration between six industry associations, and five brake equipment manufacturers and suppliers,” Ritzinger said.
“Updating that guide will take time, and it must be done correctly, as the industry relies on that advice to be able to operate safely.”
Forbes said HVIA has consistently pushed for a measured and thorough approach to the proposed changes to the Australian Design Rules.
“While changing truck width to 2.55m as soon as possible makes sense, there is a lot more work to be done before government should even consider changing trailer width.”
NHVR chief regulatory policy and standards officer David Hourigan acknowledged that the Australian Government is still finalising the finer details of the reforms, but the regulator is proactively considering how these changes might change the HVNL.
“The heavy vehicle industry and truck manufacturers are ready for this next generation of safer trucks,” he said.
“The NHVR wants to make sure the HVNL is prepared to get these safer trucks on our roads.”