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Fix the truck laws for national gains

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27 May 2021

When they meet on Friday 28 May 2021, Australia’s transport ministers should focus on safety and increasing the productivity of the trucking industry, Australian Trucking Association CEO Andrew McKellar said today.

At the meeting, ministers will consider how to complete the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), which regulates truck safety and access to the road system in the eastern states and South Australia.

“Back in 2011, it was forecast that the national truck law would deliver up to $12.4 billion in economic benefits to Australia. That hasn’t happened. In fact, productivity has declined,” Mr McKellar said.

“Increasing access for high productivity freight vehicles – trucks and trailers that can carry more freight than traditional vehicles – is the key to increasing the trucking industry’s productivity. These trucks need special permits to operate unless they are travelling on a defined network of roads.

“We need measures to expand the defined, gazetted networks so we can get more of these safe, new vehicles into service.

“This approach could save the trucking industry $1.8 billion a year by 2050, reduce the costs of Australian industries by $900 million a year and save households more than $400 a year on their everyday purchases,” he said.

Mr McKellar urged ministers to reject proposals that the HVNL be amended to require businesses with trucks to hold a special business licence or to meet a national operator standard.

“The ATA and NatRoad commissioned modelling from Deloitte Access Economics into the cost of trucking business licensing,” Mr McKellar said.

“Deloitte found that it could require licensing 131,580 businesses at a total cost of $3.2 billion over ten years.

“The official RIS prepared by the National Transport Commission was unable to identify any clear safety benefits from trucking business licensing. It would be red tape for the sake of having red tape.

“Instead, the ATA has argued that ministers should strengthen the chain of responsibility provisions in the law, which impose obligations on the industry’s customers, their directors and executives.

“At the same time, the fatigue laws need to be made simpler and more flexible, with lower penalties for paperwork offences. The high penalties for minor errors such as forgetting to sign a work diary page do not increase safety and turn truck driving into a maze of random traps,” he said.