Opinion

We have a fix for archaic access permit system

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the biggest dinosaur show in Australia right now is the movie blockbuster Jurassic World Dominion. However, there’s an even bigger dinosaur wrecking the joint and it’s the archaic road access permit system.

The cumbersome and unworkable permit system makes a mockery of new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s commitment to productivity. In fact, let’s speak plainly, it gives ‘the finger’ to that commitment.

There’s simply nothing productive about our cobbled-together road access permit system.

You’d think that system would be one of the first things the National Transport Commission (NTC) would have tackled when it began the process to rewrite the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). 

But that was three very long years ago and there’s been absolutely zero progress. 

Recently, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) was dismayed to learn that the review of the NTC’s approach merely recommended another review. So, what we have is a review of a review of a review which is madness. 

There simply has to be a circuit breaker. 

Fortunately, the ATA has the answer, and it really is a case of ‘here’s one we prepared earlier’. 

Before the federal election, the ATA created the draft Road Transport Act. We’ve done all the policy thinking. The new government just has to plug it in and press play. 

The Road Transport Act clearly sets out how to achieve the safe, productive movement of freight.

It would reduce the number of access permits by at least 95 per cent. It would define vehicle access on the National Land Transport Network to include combinations up to 53.5 metres.

It would replace the permit system and manage access through an automated notice system based on the successful Tasmanian model.

Operators would be able to check their access 24/7. The system would match each vehicle’s configuration to the network assets on the vehicle’s possible routes. 

Operators would generally be able to use an available route without needing a permit

PBS vehicles would be handled the same way.

The Road Transport Act would make changes to heavy vehicle registration. Transitioning the HVNL to a Commonwealth law would enable heavy vehicle plates to become truly national.

The inconsistencies in the current scheme would be eliminated and heavy vehicle registrations would be exempt from state stamp duty.

The changes to access would enable productivity. Productivity doesn’t appear to be the NTC’s focus. 

You may well be sick of me going on about this and trust me, I’m sick of thinking about it. 

In all honesty, I don’t want to think about the colossal waste of time that’s been the NTC’s rewriting of the HVNL. 

I don’t want to think about the money that’s been poured down the drain. I don’t want to think about the endless meetings that clearly went nowhere. 

What I want, and what the trucking industry deserves, is a productive, sensible system.  

Can we just bloody well get on with it? 

  • David Smith is chair of the Australian Trucking Association
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