The National Transport Commission’s (NTC) review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) on behalf of the Transport and Infrastructure Council is set to impact all Australian freight and transport organisations. The HVNL regulates the use of heavy vehicles on roads with an emphasis on public safety, industry productivity, efficiency, innovative and safe business practices. The HVNL review has introduced reforms to improve the efficiency of Australian freight transport.
HVNL 2.0 – A better law scenario
Following the review’s completion, the transport industry will be operating under a new set of governing standards. The HVNL is a modern law created specifically to minimise potential harm and increase efficiency. The aim is to deliver a modern, outcome-focused law for regulating heavy vehicle transport in Australia. This will also facilitate future innovation and technological opportunities.
HVNL 2.0 presents options that relate to safety and productivity, and the role of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) as a safety enforcer and industry productivity partner.
Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS)
In combination with the HVNL 2.0, the NTC has also released a regulatory impact statement (RIS). The RIS has been written to identify the incremental costs and benefits of the reform options identified by the NTC.
Implications for PBS Vehicles and Organisations
The HVNL 2.0 is still in its infancy – its permanent impact is still to be determined, but it is safe to say that regulation is focused on safer and more productive vehicles in Australia with suitable routes. Bringing the best vehicles into the fleet and keeping them roadworthy is encourage by the HVNL. Some of the key reforms include:
A streamlined Performance Based Standards (PBS) process
The suggested amendments to the Performance-Based Standards (PBS) Scheme are all about efficiency and safety. Although this is welcome news for many freight businesses, it means compliance must be stepped up. The current PBS Scheme has been found to impose high compliance costs, be time consuming, and involve a high degree of uncertainty. The Consultation RIS aims to streamline the PBS approval process and to recognise technology as an alternative method of complying with the PBS scheme. This is predicted to expedite PBS vehicle approvals, therefore reducing administrative costs.
The NHVR will have authority for approvals in PBS design applications and can give access to other authorisations to provide surety if the built vehicle complies with that design. PBS manufacturers will be allowed to self-certify that the vehicles built by them complies with a PBS design approval as they do with Australian Design Rules (ADRs). And lastly technology could be an alternative means of complying with certain PBS scheme standards.
- Fast-tracked approvals for wider and safer vehicle
HVNL can also establish a fast-tracked PBS Approval for heavy vehicles built with safety features to allow a maximum vehicle width of up to 2.6 metres. The wider vehicles would meet the relevant PBS straight-line tracking standards.
- Simpler and more-transparent access options
The future HVNL should support quick, simple and transparent access decision making. It should prioritise productivity – where it is safe and reasonable and improve vehicle access. Operators can review access decision-making with either the NHVR or the relevant jurisdiction-based administrative tribunal. This will encourage transparency and ensure due consideration is given to access requests. Additionally, decisions that are rejected can be appealed.
Current access arrangements involve high transaction and compliance costs on heavy vehicle operators. The RIS seeks to address this by expanding both mass and dimensions limits for as-of-right access. This would result in fewer vehicles needing to apply for permits, therefore decreasing compliance and administrative burden. Operators will also have incentives to invest in longer, more efficient vehicles, which will improve the industry’s operational efficiency.
- Technology and data to deliver safety and efficiency benefits
HVNL 2.0 aims to use a technology and data framework to support risk-based regulation. This framework will cover technology and data assurance, as well as data collection, handling and sharing requirements. The technology options must consider emerging heavy vehicle road reform directions to minimise the costs and complexities for operators. The new law will modernise documentation by authorising documents to be produced electronically. The Consultation RIS is considering establishing a technology and data certifier who would be charged with verifying technology for use in enforcement and compliance of the HVNL.
Changes to the framework which govern our use of the road are often disruptive to the way we work, but the idea is that once the ball is rolling, the new laws will improve the industry for operators and regulators. Refer to the NTC Consultation RIS HVNL 2.0 for more details.