A National operating standard supports the HVNL to enhance safety and productivity outcomes

ALC members have long-argued that the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) should require operators to advise the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) where vehicles are garaged to limit the incident of ‘phoenixing’ in the industry and to prove that a nominated amount of capital is available to the business.

They also believe that operators use equipment compatible with standards made to the National Telematics Framework to collect identified information and that safety management systems (SMS), scalable to the size of the business, meeting standards made by the NHVR are maintained and followed by relevant businesses.

The primary duty contained in the HVNL requires each party in the chain of responsibility to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the safety of transport activities relating to a heavy vehicle. This implies, that at the very least, an SMS should be maintained by businesses.

Requirements of the National Operating Standard will go some way towards: ensuring that the primary duty has been satisfied; as well ensuring that where enforcement action is taken, the right supply chain participant – be it driver, consignor, loading manager, packer or anyone else – that was actually in the position to influence safety outcomes (but didn’t) is held to account.

These requirements are not unusual. For example in NSW, registered:
• prime movers and articulated vehicles with a GVM or GCM of more than 13.9 tonnes and manufactured on or after 1 January 1991.
• trucks with a GVM or GCM (if travelling in combination) of more than 13.9 tonnes carrying dangerous goods and required to display signs; and
• coaches used in the course of trade or business or for hire or reward must have monitors recording:
• lengths of time the vehicle is moving and stationary during a journey;
• speeds at which the vehicle is driven;
• distance the vehicle travels between stops; and
• the time, date and place of starting and finishing a journey, drivers’ details and vehicle identification.

Accredited operators of NSW buses must also maintain a safety management system and be able to prove that capital is available to ensure the maintenance of vehicles.
NSW bus industry sources tell ALC that these measures have led to improvements in the management of bus safety relative to other classes of heavy vehicles, which appears to be supported by outcomes:

This would suggest that the ALC concept of a national operating standard, requiring operators to:
• identify the entity operating a heavy vehicle(s) and the place(s) heavy vehicles are garaged with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR);
• maintain a safety management system (SMS), meeting standards made by the NHVR;
• prove to the satisfaction of the NHVR that a nominated amount of capital is available to the business; and
• require the mandatory collection of data, through the use of equipment compatible with standards made under the National Telematics Framework
would be an appropriate inclusion into the HVNL. Some have tried to argue that this constitutes operator licensing.

It doesn’t. The Australian Government Guide to Regulation describes licensing as a ‘pre-market assessment scheme’. As the following table shows, the national operating standard is no such scheme:

What the National Operating Standard does do is to make clear to operators what is necessary to ensure the safe operation of vehicles in much the same way as an operator must comply with regulations prescribing the standards that vehicles must comply with for use on a road or driving hours limits.

The creation of a National Operating Standard offers the opportunity to enhance the safety and productivity outcomes of heavy vehicle operators — key objectives of the HVNL.

ALC believes these comparatively simple and affordable amendments to the national law, scaled appropriately to the size of the businesses, will set benchmark standards that lift safety and compliance.

Kirk Coningham