Victorian Transport Association reports that the new Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is already imposing additional costs and red tape for hundreds of road transport operators across Australia this week, without even being in force yet.
Victorian Transport Association CEO, Neil Chambers warns that hundreds of operators may well be forced to produce and distribute thousands of letters to drivers, all due to a ‘drafting error’ in the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
Under the new national law due to enter into force next Monday, 10th February 2014 in Victoria, Queensland, NSW, Tasmania and South Australia, there is a new requirement for operators enrolled in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) for Mass Management and Maintenance Management to ensure that their drivers carry ‘evidence of accreditation’, including a copy of the accreditation certificate and a letter signed by the operator stating that the driver has been inducted into the relevant management system.
Mr Chambers explains that under existing State-based road law, such a requirement is only necessary for operators enrolled in the NHVAS Fatigue Management module. However, a drafting error, which went unnoticed through the legislative process, has extended the requirements to the other components of the NHVAS as well.
While the industry, through the VTA, the ATA, and counterpart associations in other States, has continuously brought this error to the attention of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and to State Governments and existing road agencies, their requests for the costly consequences of this additional regulatory burden to be averted have not yet been heeded.
According to Mr Chambers, this requirement will not improve safety in any way; instead, hundreds of operators will need to produce and distribute thousands of letters and other pieces of paper to drivers at considerable cost and administrative burden. Under the new national law, drivers face infringement notices of $300 for failing to carry the documents, and operators face a maximum fine of $3,000 per offence.
Late last week, the NHVR issued a statement that it is ‘advising transport enforcement agencies that their authorised officers should apply discretion where drivers are unable to produce the required NHVAS documentation when they are intercepted. This may include the issuing of a warning as opposed to an infringement’. (NHVR Update: 31 January 2014).
Mr Chambers comments that this notification falls well short of the actions sought by the industry to solve this problem. A complete moratorium on the need to comply with this ludicrous error of law until the relevant provision of the HVNL (section 468) can be corrected is required.
He said the shear logistics of producing the documentation and physically getting the paperwork to drivers will mean that come next Monday, many drivers working for operators under NHVAS Mass or Maintenance accreditation will not have the documents in their truck. In some instances, drivers are now on the road and will not return to a place where the documents can be distributed to them before next Monday.
Mr Chambers concludes by saying that the industry wants the new NHVR to work, and to deliver the promised cost and productivity improvements over time. However, kicking off the new laws with additional red tape and costs, for no productivity or safety benefit, is causing a difficult situation.