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August 2019 Newsletter

Dear IFRTT colleagues,

I have two matters on which to report this month.

Update on Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law Review

I introduced the Heavy Vehicle National Law Review to the Forum in the November newsletter.

The part of the review most interesting to me is easy access to suitable routes. This is because the ease with which road access is determined for restricted access vehicles will strongly influence the growth of the Performance Based Standards (PBS) fleet and, hence, the productivity and safety of road freight transport. The National Transport Commission (NTC) held an industry consultation workshop on Friday to discuss the matters raised in a recently-published Issues Paper on this subject. Until 16 August the NTC is seeking formal comments on this paper via their submissions page.

Some of the issues that I believe are limiting PBS fleet growth include:

  • The lack of a legislative framework for determining road access for PBS vehicles until after they are constructed. This means that potential operators of certain PBS vehicles must take unnecessarily high commercial risks. Access may be declined, forcing the constructed vehicle to be parked-up. Alternatively, if access is pre-determined “in-principle” through unofficial administrative processes before the vehicle is constructed, there are no enforceable timeframes on the access decision, and in-principle access determinations are not legally binding on the road manager when the operator ultimately applies for the permit after vehicle construction.
  • Limited options for review of access decisions. Access decisions made by State Road Authorities may not be subjected to external review; only internal review by the State Road Authority is possible. In the case of “in-principle” access decisions, there is no legal avenue for obtaining any kind of review of a decision.
  • Limited transparency. In some jurisdictions, when access is refused on the grounds of insufficient infrastructure capacity (e.g. bridge loading limitations) access is not automatically granted at an acceptable mass. The applicant must re-apply at a lower mass and hope that access is granted. Without any feedback this trial and error process can be quite time-consuming and impractical.

There are many more issues of detail that I’m sure will be put forward in the review, but to my mind the exclusion of legislative pre-construction access determination is a major one.

Extension of pre-advised PBS approvals

I am pleased to report that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has been expanding the group of PBS vehicles known as “pre-advised” vehicles. These are vehicles meeting certain mass, dimension and configuration parameters that have a smoother journey through the approval process. Specifically, the NHVR is able to approve these vehicles without first seeking advice from the PBS Review Panel, which would add a few weeks to the process. Where most approvals once took several weeks to be processed, pre-advised vehicles are turned around in a matter of days. Up-to-date information about pre-advised vehicles is available here.

After a slow start the ski season has finally arrived in the Victorian high country, but with mild temperatures and not much more precipitation on the way it may not be a long one.

Kind regards
IFRTT Vice President Australasia & Pacific

Rob Di Cristoforo