NatRoad says drivers “deserve better quality and safer roads”

The journey to delivering better policy outcomes can feel like a long and winding road.

The reform of the Heavy Vehicle National Law is a good example. The HVNL review has stretched on for six years and governments recently gave themselves another extension. New legislation will not pass parliament until 2025, at the earliest.

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You don’t have to look hard to find a longer running journey where industry is yet to see meaningful outcomes delivered on the ground. 

Heavy Vehicle Road Reform (HVRR) focuses on how heavy vehicle charges are determined and infrastructure spending is made.  It has been in the too-hard basket for 17 years.

In 2007, the Productivity Commission found heavy vehicles are the logical starting point for road user charging and investment reform. 

Responding to the Commission’s report, the then Council of Australian Governments (COAG), agreed to a three-phase reform plan, the COAG Road Reform Plan.

2009 brought an initial report and by 2011 a feasibility study was delivered. In 2012, five years into the journey, the program was renamed to Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment (HVCI).

HVCI had a short life in terms of branding, ultimately becoming Heavy Vehicle Road Reform (HVRR) by 2014.

And while COAG did not survive the COVID pandemic (replaced by National Cabinet), HVRR is still with us today. 17 long years with little delivery.

In 2017, a detailed consultation occurred focused on setting up independent price regulation of heavy vehicle charges. At the time, NatRoad said the reform was long overdue. Nothing came of this consultation.

In 2020, further consultation was undertaken for the HVRR, resulting in a 2021 pathway agreed by ministers. The steps in this pathway have not been achieved.

The introduction of National Service Level Standards Framework (NSLSF) is one of the first steps in the pathway.

The NSLSF would provide clear and transparent metrics on the road and facility quality standards transport operators experience firsthand every day. Standards should be established for road quality, road safety, provision of rest areas, and heavy vehicle access, placing priority on road maintenance. 

The standards were intended to be implemented by 2024 but remain on the drawing board. 

By shining a light on the state of our roads we can utilise evidence based data to prioritise road funding where it is needed most and fixing gaps in road quality.

There have been numerous reports concluding the way road projects are selected for funding needs reform. Record funding levels will achieve little if the right priorities are not being addressed.

This is why HVRR is important and cannot be left unrealised. It is about delivering better-quality roads, improving safety, and productivity for all road users.

NatRoad makes the case for moving forward with the NSLSF, as the first step, to guide infrastructure investment decisions by no later than 2025.  This is achievable by establishing a phased approach starting with the national highways and key freight routes. 

If governments don’t make the decision to prioritise implementation of service level standards, then we’ll get to the 20-year reform anniversary with nothing to show.

Our drivers and the public deserve better. It is time to prioritise implementation of service levels to deliver better quality and safer roads.

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