BREAKING: NHVR gears up for huge trucking safety probe

By: Rob McKay

Exclusive: focus to be on implementation of duties and culture

BREAKING: NHVR gears up for huge trucking safety probe
Sal Petroccitto


The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is to embark on a thorough investigation into the trucking-related safety, starting in the coming weeks.

The probe is foreshadowed in a post-draft submission to the Productivity Commission’s (PC’s) heavy vehicle reform review and it is hoped the findings can give an early indication of how recent reforms are performing.

"In early 2020 … the NHVR will investigate the implementation of safety duties and culture throughout the transport industry as part of the heavy vehicle industry safety survey," the submission states.

An NHVR spokesperson confirms it will begin in the coming weeks and will utilise an external organisation for the survey.

Meanwhile, the PC is fielding a rush of post-draft submissions, with 25 lobbing so far this month.

The 12 month review was called to investigate the effectiveness – and seek opportunities to improve – the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG’s) transport reforms to deliver national productivity benefits and safety, which led to the birth of national regulators in the heavy vehicle, rail and maritime sectors.

NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto kicks its submission off by commending the PC’s work and calling on the National Transport Commission (NTC) to "provide sufficient time within the HVNL [Heavy Vehicle National Law] review to fully consider the PC's recommendations before progressing with any proposed legislative amendments".

The NHVR sees the two organisations being broadly aligned on five main points within its "future strategic direction":

  • advocating for a less prescriptive HVNL, particularly concerning fatigue
  • effective transition of regulatory services from HVNL-participating states and territories to the NHVR
  • increasing the number of PBS vehicles in Australia's heavy vehicle fleet
  • expanding the number of freight routes covered by notices
  • working closely with (and providing support) to road managers to open up access.

Read how the draft reform report was received initially, here

The NHVR ticked off effectively all the PC draft report recommendations but did expand on two items the PC sought addition information on.

The commission desires more information on situations where greater clarity is required between the operational jurisdiction of national transport regulators and workplace health and safety (WHS) regulators and overlaps in their responsibilities.

"What options for rectification would be desirable?" it asks.

The NHVR points out that transport regulators have a broader obligation to reduce public harm than WHS regulators.

"Synergies exist but the responsibilities are complementary, not duplicative," it notes, adding WHS law have primacy in the HVNL.

It also points out the WHS regimes are state-based while it is a national regulator.

"The presence of appropriate specialist regulators with the ability to set clear, evidence-based, context specific expectations to prevent public harm is beneficial to the transport industry," the NHVR says.

"In this way, specialist transport regulators can go further than WHS and provide greater guidance.

"In this context, the NHVR believes that there is no necessity for rectification."

In the road space and tapping into pressures from customers that transport firms complain of, the PC also seeks a greater insight into safety implications of commercial contracts in the industries that the HVNL covers.

"In this regard, the Commission would be interested in understanding the effectiveness of safety duties applying to various businesses through the supply chain (for example, Chain of Responsibility, Workplace Health and Safety)," it states.

The NHVR points out the HVNL covers about as a broad range of industries are supplies chains and the regulators powers give it significant coverage.

"The question of whether safety duties add any additional value, other than that covered by WHS legislation must address the aspect of reducing public harm.

"Explicit safety duties in the HVNL fill the gaps for transport activities, for instance, in relation to chain of responsibility which covers engagement of staff and sub-contractors.

"Many of the entities regulated by the transport specific legislation would potentially not be captured as a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) in the WHS legislation.

"The transport specific legislation also recognises the importance of upstream entities placing commercial pressure on regulated entities which can lead to decreased safety outcomes, as opposed to more immediate abilities to control and influence entities at a defined workplace with WHS legislation.

"Safety duties are a proactive approach to ensure that responsibility is placed on those who have a greater level of influence over the safety of transport activities (to place a proportionate level of pressure on those who have less influence through the supply chain).

"The current legislation was only enacted in October 2018, and thus, it is too early to know the full extent of effectiveness of this legislation."


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