The future of heavy vehicle accreditation
Heavy vehicle accreditation schemes were first introduced in the mid-1990s as an alternative method of compliance to meeting the prescriptive regulations.
There are currently three main accreditation schemes in operation:
• The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) administered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR)
• TruckSafe – an industry-led scheme managed by the Australian Trucking Association
• Western Australia Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme – a state-based scheme administered by Main Roads WA.
The NHVAS and TruckSafe are voluntary whereas accreditation in WA is mandatory for anyone who operates truck and trailer combinations over 42.5 tonnes gross mass in WA, including interstate operators.
Operators participating in accreditation report that it helps them improve their safety standards and provides assurance to customers and regulators of their compliance with the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
The NHVAS also provides participants with regulatory concessions such as access to higher mass limits and more flexible work and rest hours.
It is estimated that only around 20 per cent of heavy vehicle operators are accredited.
A review of heavy vehicle accreditation schemes was completed in 2018.
The recommendations are currently being considered as part of the broader review of the HVNL. NatRoad supports a number of these recommendations, in particular:
• Developing a single national accreditation framework to improve consistency across schemes and allow mutual recognition
• Applying a safety management system approach to accreditation, with enough flexibility for operators to adapt requirements to suit the nature of their operations
• Extending regulatory concessions to operators across all schemes who meet the required standards
We do not support the recommendation to establish mandatory accreditation requirements.
In effect this creates an operator licensing system and removes the competitive advantage for those who undergo the effort and expense of becoming accredited.
A move to primary duties and less prescriptive regulations in the review of the HVNL makes accreditation as an alternative compliance mechanism less attractive.
It is therefore necessary to review the role of accreditation under a new legislative framework and the benefits the schemes provide to operators to ensure their viability.
Operators are unlikely to join an accreditation scheme if the costs are not offset by clear safety and productivity benefits, including through regulatory incentives and reduced on-road enforcement of accredited operators.
Alongside the broader debate about the future design of accreditation schemes, the NHVR is currently considering changes to the NHVAS Business Rules and Standards, including amalgamation of the BFM and AFM standards.
NatRoad will be preparing a submission on these changes and is interested in hearing your views.