NHVR progresses road reform

Even when the NHVR had significant problems with its main launch in February 2014, NatRoad was a determined supporter, rallying members behind headlines such as short-term pain for long term gain.

12 months on and I am happy to report that, with a new management team, the NHVR is finding its feet and proving to be the advocate for change and reform that industry has been crying out for.

This is not to say that things can’t be better, because they can; or that the reform process is in any way complete, because it is not. Nevertheless, NatRoad feels confident in saying that the NHVR is solidly finding its feet as it grapples with state and local government jurisdictions in implementing the reforms that industry so badly needs and that will benefit all.

I’ll get to the areas requiring further attention later, but first I would like to highlight some of the gains made by the NHVR over the past 12 months:

• Enabled a greater input by industry into the operation of the NHVR, via an Industry Reference Forum and four Industry Operator Groups.
• Substantial progress in rebuilding its access management system to deliver a new user-centred, online system for access permits which has improved turnaround times for permit applications, with 93 per cent of cases now closed within 10 days.
• Substantially increased the number of safer, more freight efficient heavy-vehicles on the road network through the Performance Based Standards (PBS) program.
• Developed notices that replace jurisdiction-specific notices with single national notices that apply across states and territories.
• Reduced red tape for industry by facilitating greater access to the road network by negotiating over 700 pre-approved routes, thereby removing the need for permit applications.
• Issued five Compliance and Enforcement Industry Bulletins to get greater consistency in enforcement outcomes at the roadside.
• Secured mutual recognition of heavy-vehicle modifications in all states and territories.
• Updated auditing provisions of the NHVAS to standardise the way audits are conducted, strengthen the quality of audits, ensure more effective safety requirements for heavy vehicles and enhance the standing of auditors.

Notwithstanding these gains, more needs to be done. Two areas standing out as being ripe for further reform are: the need for greatly improved cooperation with and by state jurisdictions; and for improved cooperation between the states and local governments.

NatRoad is concerned that the much-needed cultural change within state jurisdictions is proceeding too slowly. Just as industry is being challenged to ‘think nationally, while acting locally’, so too should the jurisdictions.

A determined and cooperative drive to the formation of a single national framework, by all jurisdictions, is what is urgently needed. Road reform is one of the most important drivers of national micro-economic reform. However, there are still too many access restrictions, variations in the application and interpretation of the national law, and jurisdictional specific regulatory requirements.

The road sector is a main driver of economic growth in this country and the emergence of a single national jurisdiction is a major driver to improving industry and national productivity. National reforms like this are essential in the increasingly globalised world that we live in.

Just as industry is doing the right thing via greatly improved compliance and increased professionalism, as demonstrated by the ongoing and significant gains in road safety outcomes, so too must the jurisdictions.

Industry is committed to improving safety. This is evidenced by the fact that heavy vehicle related road fatalities are at an all-time low, in spite of a massive increase in the road transport task and a commensurate increase in heavy vehicle numbers over recent decades.

NatRoad encourages states and local governments to bring a ‘can do’ attitude to the reform process to support greatly improved national outcomes and the vital work of the NHVR leading to improved productivity, efficiency and safety.

NatRoad remains committed to the reform process. Importantly, we are all in this together and together we can and will bring about the change we all know needs to happen.

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