In a private meeting outcomes paper, a top government committee has acknowledged the industry’s frustrations about the slow pace of the truck law reforms.
The comments paper from the Heavy Vehicle National Law Reform Implementation Steering Committee, obtained by the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) through a Freedom of Information request, is heavily redacted in parts.
But the 52-page document gives those outside the inner circle of bureaucrats tasked with deciding the industry’s fate, one of the clearest insights yet into why this process has dragged on for so long.
ATA chair David Smith, Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters’ Association president Scott McDonald and Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia CEO Todd Hacking were the first industry representatives invited along to give advice, but had just 10 minutes to state their case.
“The steering committee acknowledged the consistent comments from all three representatives which included industry frustration at the slow pace of progress on reform implementation, the range of challenges and issues currently facing heavy vehicle operators in addition to the HVNL work (i.e. zero emissions, autonomous vehicle trucks, axle weights) and the importance of ensuring new legislation/regulation is fit for purpose and can meet the future needs of the industry,” writes committee chair Jim Betts.
The chair also advised the industry message is clear and reiterated the committee’s role was to oversee HVNL reform implementation as soon as practicable.
“In response to questions from steering committee members, the industry representatives advised the highest priority issue for them was streamlined access – improvement in this area would be a step change for productivity.
The three industry representatives also agreed a single portal for access and a single national map were key elements of an effective system
“Industry representatives noted the next most significant issue is managing decarbonisation and enabling increases in vehicle mass.”
The chair also agreed to facilitate direct discussions with a small group of industry representatives on a regular basis, perhaps immediately after each steering committee meeting, to test ideas.
“The industry representatives present were supportive of this approach and welcomed continuing engagement.”
According to a communique from the most recent transport ministers’ meeting, the only movement on the HVNL rated just a handful of lines.
“Ministers endorsed proposed amendments to the HVNL, with the NTC to develop drafting instructions for an Amendment Bill and develop core regulations in consultation with industry,” the communique reads.
“Ministers noted an aspirational goal of having a package of legislation and core regulations presented to ITMM for approval in July 2024, with an update to be provided at the next meeting.”
Adds the NTC on its website: “We’re working on behalf of transport ministers to deliver a new draft law for heavy vehicles in Australia. The goal is to simplify the law to enhance safety while delivering industry productivity and flexibility.
“The package of legislation and core regulations will be presented to ministers in July, 2024.”
According to the latest summary statement from the steering committe, representatives from the Victorian Transport Association, the National Road Transport Association and the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association attended part of its June meeting.
The attendees were asked for their views on ‘must-haves’ for a national automated access system and what were the key outcomes they were seeking.
The representatives were consistent in their comments on the importance of a single national system. They want to see one system across all states with one entry point. They noted the improvements to freight movements and overall productivity that could be achieved with a harmonised and user-friendly system. They also highlighted the importance of a system being easily accessible from mobile phones and tablets for on-road use.
The next meeting of the committee will be on July 24, 2023.