The effectiveness of National Transport Commission

By: Chris Smith


The effectiveness of the National Transport Commission (NTC) is the focus of a new review.

Transport ministers will this year debate the future of the NTC, as a review begins into the regulatory body.

The Australian Transport Council (ATC) will consider a report in September over whether the NTC should be scrapped or if amendments should be made to its Act.

Ask a driver or small operator from the bus or truck segments of the road transport industry what does the NTC do and you will here answers like, "make things more complicated, "stuff things up," and "jack all".

Of course we wouldn’t be so harsh as to share that sort of sentiment.

Remember the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) released in November 1998?

To those that may have forgotten, or weren’t informed then, it was the Amalgamation of Truck and Bus Driving Hours Regulations.

Recently this issue of tagging bus regulation with truck regulation sent ripples of discontinuity through the NTC’s new national fatigue regulations.

The RIS in 1998 stated: "The amalgamation is expected to make the national driving hours compliance requirements more user-friendly, facilitate enforcement and improve compliance".

The Commission undertook extensive consultation during the separate development of both the Truck and Bus Regulations.

During these consultations, they claim there had been considerable truck and bus industry support for a unified set of driving hours regulations.

In May 1998, the Commission circulated a discussion paper entitled Amalgamation of Truck & Bus Driving Hours Regulations to State and Territory transport agencies, the federal office of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) and the Commission’s Bus Industry Advisory Group (BIAG).

Comments were invited and a teleconference with State and Territory transport agency representatives was held on May 19, 1998 to discuss the Discussion Paper.

A Policy Paper, reflecting the comments received on the Discussion Paper, was circulated to Transport Agency Chief Executives for endorsement.

The Paper was also circulated to BIAG, the TWU, Police and transport associations.

The question to ask your self as an operator or an association is where was the consultation with the state associations?

Ten years later while launching new national heavy vehicle fatigue laws the NTC stumbled on the issue of bus legislation being a tag on of truck regulation again.

After so many years of knowing the issues and consultation with different stakeholders, you would’ve thought it would be a no-brainer transition.

But alas, it simply caused confusion, caused exemption and caused extra pain to operators in the bus sector.

The current review into the NTC will be headed by former Queensland Transport bureaucrat Bruce Wilson as chair.

Wilson, who was last year appointed to lead the development of the Queensland Public Service Commission, worked for 12 years as the chief executive of Queensland Transport.

He will be joined by two other committee members as part of the three-person team responsible for examining the NTC’s effectiveness and its future in terms of policy and regulatory challenges.

Tania Whyte from Linfox and Adam Lewis from McKinsey & Company will assist Wilson on the panel, which will consult with the industry and representative organisations before making its findings.

Right away there seems to be a lack of representation from the bus and coach sector.

However, it is your opportunity to help shape the direction of the NTC.

The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says the review will provide recommendations on the future of the NTC, including possible amendments to the relevant legislation.

The recommendations will be presented to the Australian Transport Council in the middle of the year, which will then report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in September.

"I would also encourage all those interested in the future of the NTC to make a submission," Albanese says.

All associations and stakeholders in the bus and coach industry should log on to the NTC website, find out what they have done for the industry and what they intend to do – have your say.

Written submissions close March 6 (www.ntc.gov.au).

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