Bus taskforce meets

The NHVR bus industry taskforce met in Brisbane today, 24 hours after the Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill’s historic introduction

Bus taskforce meets
Bus taskforce meets

By David Goeldner | November 16, 2011

Just 24 after the historic introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill into Queensland Parliament, some of the bus industry’s ‘heavy hitters’ met in Brisbane to bring a raft of issues not included in the bill to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s attention.

The intention of the meeting, convened by NHVR Project Office Director Richard Hancock, was to ‘tease out’ the issues that should be considered under the proposed legislation during its amendment phase by July 2012.

"I think it’s been very useful to get a stronger sense of the bus sector and its particular requirements that need to be assessed as part of preparing the amendment bill," Hancock says.

Given the Heavy Vehicle National Law bill is heavily focused on freight transport, Bus Industry Confederation Director Michael Apps says bus-specific issues were ‘nutted out’ and separated from the freight transport task during the meeting.

As an example, Apps says the bus sector has been caught up in the 4.5 tonne issue relating to freight transport, seen as a ‘one size fits all’ approach adopted over time.

"It’s not anybody’s particular fault that this emerged," he says.

"Some of the bus-specific issues were put to one side and not necessarily considered within the context of the passenger task versus the freight task."

He says this relates mainly to driving hours, contracted services, timetables and the routes buses operate on, through to the access regime that buses have compared with B-Double and Road Train routes in freight transport.

"If you look at the access requirements for the passenger task they’re quite varied," Apps says.

"We are happy that the NHVR has established the Bus Taskforce to tease these issues out."

Hancock sees three projects emerging from today’s discussion with the bus taskforce.

"There’s the Heavy Vehicle National Amendment Bill and dealing with some of the bus related issues in it, and the development of the regulations themselves," he says.

The third project is adapting operational systems under the auspices of the NHVR.

Operational aspects include the standards of vehicle inspections and how systems like fatigue management will be adapted to better suit the needs of the bus industry.

"So there are those three major projects that I can see coming from today that the bus taskforce will monitor and keep track of over at least the next six months," Hancock says.

Noted bus industry identities at the Brisbane meeting with Michael Apps included BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish, BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe, Greyhound Australia Chief Operating Office Tony Hopkins, and Warrnambool Bus Managing Director Stephen Lucas.

Apps says the bus industry will represent its views robustly and assist Hancock in his task to bring each jurisdiction ‘on board’.

"The winners will ultimately be the state governments, particularly in the area of contracted bus services, whether they are school or route because it will deliver some efficiencies and productivity benefits," he says.

How this is done will be through reducing bureaucratic requirements, state by state, as each jurisdiction adopts template legislation which duplicates the Queensland-enacted law, coming into force by January 1, 2013.

The ‘red tape’ dogging driving hours emerged as a key area for debate at the meeting, particularly in the long distance coach sector.

"If we get it right, particularly in the area of driving hours, it will give tour operators a bit more flexibility around how they manage their drivers and time behind the wheel," Apps says.

Hancock says there were many issues on the table, and driving hours would be given priority.

"But we’ve committed to consider all of the issues raised by the taskforce," he says.

Apps is confident that the bus industry will be heard, and its proposals seriously considered as part of the amended bill.

"The regulator is committed to establishing the bus taskforce, and that commitment to us is significant and is recognition that we have got some good points to raise," he says.

"It’s been a ground breaking day."

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