Off and running - transport law starts its journey


A national milestone was reached in Queensland Parliament today with the introduction of the Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill

Off and running - transport law starts its journey
Off and running – transport law starts its journey

By David Goeldner | November 15, 2011

It’s been two years in the making, but today marked the first steps towards enshrining a single national system of state laws regulating heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes.

The Heavy Vehicle National Law Bill 2011 was introduced this afternoon into Queensland Parliament by Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk.

With little fanfare and a handful of MPs present, Palaszczuk read the bill which will see Australia adopt a single set of uniform heavy vehicle laws introduced across the states and territories for the first time.

The bill is expected to pass through Queensland’s unicameral parliament in March 2012, and progressively enacted as national law with ‘template legislation’ in other states by the time the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator takes office on January 1, 2013.

"This is the first piece of legislation from a major reform process that will transform regulation of the heavy vehicle industry in Australia," Palaszczuk says.

""It has been a long term goal of Australian state and territory governments, along with the heavy vehicle industry, to work towards greater harmonisation in heavy vehicle regulation."

Palaszczuk presented the background leading to the Bill’s introduction, starting with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in July 2009 which kick-started the transport reform agenda.

In July 2009 as part of the national reform process for a seamless national economy, COAG agreed to establish a national heavy vehicle regulator to administer a national body of law to govern the regulation of all heavy vehicles.

Palaszczuk says COAG recognised the importance of achieving national consistency of heavy vehicle law and regulations.

She says the reforms are aimed at improving productivity and national competitiveness, reducing compliance burdens for business and workers making it easier to operate across state borders.

Palaszczuk also pushed Queensland’s claim to start the reform process.

"In recognition of Queensland’s positive working relationship with the industry, and our strong support and adoption of national heavy vehicle model laws, Queensland was named the host jurisdiction for this regulatory reform in February 2010," she says.

"This means Queensland would help lead implementation of regulatory reform in conjunction with the regulator project office, the National Transport Commission, and all jurisdictions."

The Bill has been referred to Queensland Parliament’s Transport and Local Government Committee and will come back for a second reading early in 2012.

The COAG-endorse intergovernmental agreement requires the national law to be passed by the Queensland Parliament before March 31, 2012.

According to the agreement, all jurisdictions will pass legislation to ensure the national law is applied in each state or territory jurisdiction.

The Bill also provides for the creation of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

The NHVR will be responsible for administering the new law on matters such as registration, maximum loading, fatigue management, vehicle standards, compliance and enforcement.

Due to the extremely complex nature of combining a dozen pieces of heavy vehicle legislation, Palaszczuk says it was necessary to split the national law into two separate bills.

A second bill will be introduced in mid-2012 which will contain a range of technical amendments and policy refinements.

CREATION OF THE NHVR

Enshrining the bulk of the agreed legislation within COAG timeframes will allow the corporate structures of the NHVR to be established from July 2012.

The NHVR will enable owners and operators to conduct heavy vehicle business with government in one place.

Palaszczuk says this ‘one stop shop’ will allow registration, renewals, and the issuing of access permits to be coordinated through a single point of contact, cutting down on unnecessary costs and time for operators.

"At the moment, heavy vehicle operators and drivers need to comply with different regulations in each state and territory they drive through," she says.

"For example, an interstate operator taking freight from Townsville to Melbourne would need to contact and receive access approvals from three state jurisdictions – jurisdictions that could potentially apply their own specific access requirements."

Palaszczuk says these different requirements create extra costs, red tape and confusion.

"The regulator will facilitate negotiations with asset owners across jurisdiction borders and local governments to ensure that a single permit with a simplified set of operating conditions for all participating jurisdictions is issued."

NHVR Project Director Richard Hancock says the introduction of the bill into the Queensland Parliament marks another significant milestone in the reform.

"I would like to acknowledge the commitment and work of the Queensland Minister and the Department of Transport and Main Roads in achieving this milestone," he says.

Hancock is aware that not all commercial operation requirements of road transport vehicles above 4.5 tonnes have been encompassed in the first bill, as he seeks to work with other sectors – primarily the bus and coach sector – leading to further inclusions in the second amended bill by mid-2012.

"There are many more milestones to be met, but I am looking forward to working with the bus industry on their specific issues that need to be resolved, particularly in regard to the national law."

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