Although transport ministers are still months away from signing off on changes to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), don’t expect WA or the NT to come on board when they do.
The National Transport Commission announced late last year that there would be a further six-month extension to the never-ending review process for changes to fatigue management, vehicle mass and dimension limits, and national audit standards for operation accreditation.
But WA and NT – jurisdictions that have snubbed the HVNL since its inception in February 2014 – tell Big Rigs that they haven’t been impressed enough with the proposed changes to join the eastern states.
A Main Roads WA spokesperson tells us that it has participated in the HVNL working groups to better understand the changes to industry and “align” where benefits to the WA industry can be demonstrated.
“However, the changes in the HVNL are still focussed on the freight task on the east coast and not significant enough for WA to change its position,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Significant changes to the HVNL would need to occur that would provide the same level of productivity and flexibility in WA legislation that is currently experienced by the WA road transport industry.”
The spokesperson said that WA has the most flexible mass limit requirements in Australia and as such, most operators can enter the state without having to adjust loads.
WA also operates the longest and most diverse heavy vehicle combinations in the country.
The spokesperson also said the state won’t be changing the fatigue management arrangements that are currently managed by WorkSafe WA under Work Health and Safety legislation.
“The system was developed in close consultation with the WA industry and is tailored to suit the unique operating environment in this state.”
“Similarly, the WA Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (WAHVA) was strengthened through its inclusion in the WA Compliance and Enforcement Legislation that commenced operation in 2015. Unlike the national accreditation system administered by the NHVR, the WAHVA is mandatory for all Restricted Access Vehicle (RAV) operators.
“Engaging with the transport industry has helped WA understand the industry’s requirements and to achieve better outcomes as we continually improve our policies and processes, particularly relating to innovative approaches to RAV access to the WA road network and permit turnaround time frames and productivity.”
The spokesperson also stressed that WA continues to work with the NTC and NHVR through a variety of working groups and reviews to “harmonise” processes and polices where possible, particularly those that increase productivity and safety.
“We continue to work to improve cross border operations with our interstate counterparts who have adopted the HVNL.
“WA regularly reviews heavy vehicle regulations and will continue to harmonise processes and policies where possible, particularly where are cross-border issues, to increase productivity and safety for the transport industry.”
Louise Bilato, executive officer of the NT Road Transport Association (NTRTA), said the NT has always been very open and receptive to considering adopting the HVNL.
But the legislation has to be “workable” for the NT.
“It’s not something that we’re entertaining in any way, shape or form because we don’t believe that the legislation in the territory is broken and that we’d be in a better environment under the HVNL,” Bilato said.
“What we’ve got works, so what’s the incentive for the NT to join the HVNL? What is the benefit for us? There is none.”
Bilato said fatigue management in the NT works well under the nationally harmonised work, health and safety legislation.
“We said this in 2010-11 when it was harmonised that fatigue is an individual, everyday risk that every company, regardless of what you do, has to manage.
“We continue to say the same thing, that prescriptive diaries don’t achieve that.”
Bilato said there is also no access restrictions in the NT for road trains, apart from a few in the Darwin CBD.
“Whilst we don’t have that as a problem, there has been one thing after the other in other jurisdictions so they can catch up and do what we do in the Northern Territory.”
Western Roads Federation CEO Cam Dumesny said he’s also more than happy to keep the status quo, and so far at least, there is no compelling reason “at all” to consider joining the HVNL.
“If the other states within the Heavy Vehicle National Law all wanted to join WA, we’d consider taking them on,” he quipped.
“Having said that, we do collaborate with the NHVR. We don’t go arguing. There is strong collaboration, but with our own position.”