Weekly News – Is turmoil the new normal? NHVR delivers important reform for rural transport

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IS TURMOIL THE NEW NORMAL?

It’s hard to imagine the year kicking off with more turmoil than is going on right now.

Economically, the price of oil and iron ore has halved, iron ore returns are in tatters, world-wide income inequality is widening, there is no Federal surplus in sight for a decade and the Reserve Bank is concerned enough to cut interest rates to a new historic low.

On the political front we’ve got a shock election result in Queensland, a leadership coup in the Northern Territory, a blocked Federal Senate and a Prime Minister under attack by his own party.  Not to mention a lame duck US President, a slowing Chinese economy and a Russian crisis.

So much for stable government and a stable economy in 2015.

Perhaps the worrying thing though is trying to figure out what it all means for the future of Australia.  While economists are still predicting that the burgeoning middle class in Asia will improve demand for Australian resources and agricultural products, some well-known transport industry journeymen have been suggesting to me that this is just the beginning of what will become a very tough period for this country.

Depending on where you sit in the scheme of things these developments might represent a problem or an opportunity.  You might even say that a good shake up was overdue.

At least for the time being you can enjoy cheaper fuel, cheaper money, strong beef prices and a favourable exchange rate.  Now, if it would just rain on time….

NHVR DELIVERS IMPORTANT REFORM FOR RURAL TRANSPORT

The ALRTA welcomes the NHVR’s announcement today that the NSW and QLD 160km radius log book exemption for rural carriers will be extended to SA, TAS and ACT.

Rural carriers can immediately operate under the exemption in SA and ACT.  The exemption will apply in TAS from 30 March 2015.

The changes mean that operators moving primary produce will not need to carry and record information in a National Driver Work Diary if travelling or working within 160km of their home base.  It is important to note however that record keepers for exempt drivers will still need to keep basic information on work and rest times and payment records for a period of three years in an alternative format.  The exemption does not change the hours a driver can work or must rest.

The ALRTA has been campaigning since July 2014 when we wrote to the NHVR seeking a national approach on this issue.  We argued that increasing the universally applicable ‘local work’ 100km radius exemption to 160km for rural carriers in regional areas is a common sense approach because the ‘local’ area is larger in places where congestion is lower, average speed limits higher and the economic base spread more broadly.

The primary aim of the Heavy Vehicle National Law has been to reduce or remove regulatory differences between the States and Territories’ said ALRTA National President Grant Robins.

Today’s announcement demonstrates that the NHVR can effectively work with the participating jurisdictions to deliver a more consistent approach for transport operators’.

The President of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of South Australia, David Smith, congratulated the NHVR CEO Sal Petrocitto for successfully delivering the reform and thanked the South Australian Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Stephen Mullighan, for listening to operators and supporting the changes.

This is an excellent step towards bringing South Australian heavy vehicle regulation into line with competing States.  Mr Pettrocitto and Minister Mullighan have shown that we can in fact reduce the volume of small entry paperwork in the cab without compromising safety outcomes’ said President Smith.

The NHVR has also committed to working with Victoria to progress a national approach.

The President of the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria, John Beer, called on Victorian authorities to put aside any differences and embrace national uniformity.

‘The whole idea of signing up to the Heavy Vehicle National Laws was that all operators would be treated equally.  It makes no sense to have different rules in Victoria when every other participating State has agreed on a uniform approach’ said President Beer.

The ALRTA and LRTAV will continue to work with the NHVR and Victoria to pursue a nationally consistent outcome.

For more information, call 1300 MYNHVR (1300 696 487) or visit www.nhvr.gov.au/workdiary for:

NATIONAL RAMP GUIDELINES A STEP CLOSER

Last week the ALRTA hosted an industry-government workshop in Melbourne to consider our draft National Guidelines for Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards.

The workshop was facilitated by Andrew Higginson and was well attended with around 20 participants representing transporters, producers, handling facilities, equipment designers and WH&S enforcement.

The draft guidelines contain information about safety and welfare duties, general design principles, hazards / risks / controls, as well as a series of model ramp designs that suit most applications.

While there was healthy debate on some topics, participants universally supported the draft and have committed to assist in supporting the final product when launched during 2015.  The ALRTA will now produce a revised draft and commence a broader public consultation process before seeking official endorsement from Safe Work Australia.

The ALRTA thanks all workshop participants for their time and enthusiasm in bringing together perspectives from across the supply chain and government.  We are also extremely grateful to our national sponsor Beaurepaires for demonstrating their strong commitment to improving safety in our industry by providing special financial support for the workshop.

NHVR RESPONDS ON EFFLUENT ENFORCEMENT

The ALRTA has received a response to our letter to the NHVR CEO seeking a nationally consistent approach to the application of chain of responsibility for effluent spills.

In our letter we clearly laid out our view on the legal basis for extended liability to be applied under the Heavy Vehicle National Law and demonstrated that the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines – Land Transport of Livestock clearly identifies that the consignor is responsible for the application of appropriate pre-transit feed / water curfews and communicating these to other parties in the chain.

In the response, the NHVR has acknowledged that effluent spills are indeed a load restraint breach and that chain of responsibility laws can apply.  Importantly, the NHVR has committed to including the issue of effluent on the ‘chain of responsibility issues list’ which will be progressed by the recently recruited NHVR Executive Director of Regulatory Compliance (Mr Tony Kursius) who will be responsible for developing a the NHVR’s general compliance and enforcement strategy.

The ALRTA looks forward to working closely with the NHVR on this issue during 2015.

A WORKABLE FORTNIGHTY CYCLE IS IN SIGHT

As reported in the last newsletter, the ALRTA has been closely examining the exposure draft of the proposed Livestock and Rural Transport Fatigue Management Scheme.

Following on from our recent meeting with the NHVR in Brisbane at which we quite frankly dismissed the first draft as unworkable, NHVR representatives have attended our National Council meeting in Melbourne last week to develop alternative options.

I am pleased to say that the NHVR has shown a genuine willingness to take the experience and operational requirements of industry on board and the ALRTA is generally confident that the process is now moving in the right direction.

The new AFM system essentially revolves around ‘risk trading’.  So the real difficulty lies in identifying what an operator is willing to give up in order to gain the type of flexibility that is desired.

We are hopeful that an attractive ‘fortnightly cycle’ proposition will be agreed and launched in early 2015.  There are already more than 40 operators who have signed on to pilot the scheme.

NHVR ANNOUNCES AUDIT CHANGES

The NHVR has announced it will implement changes to the auditing provisions of the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVR) from 1 March 2015, as part of the NTC/NHVR National Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness program.

From 1 March, the current NHVAS Standards and Business Rules February 2014 [PDF] will be replaced by amended NHVAS Business Rules and Standards March 2015 [PDF].

The changes will affect the way in which NHVAS auditors are recognised and audits are conducted. Auditors will need to seek registration with the NHVR, and meet new additional criteria.

Provisions aimed at reducing the potential for conflicts of interest have been added.  For example, if an operator’s choice of auditor appears to be inappropriate, the NHVR may stipulate a list of alternative auditors the operator must choose from.

The new standards also provide updated audit tools for conducting and reporting on audits, including a new independent audit framework, audit matrix and audit report template.

Transitional provisions will apply for existing auditors, who will be able to continue providing auditing services under their existing certification until 1 July 2016. However, all NHVAS audits must be conducted in accordance with the amended Business Rules and Standards from early 2015.

The NHVR will provide further information on the changes over the coming months. Direct enquiries can be sent to info@nhvr.gov.au.

INDUSTRY AGREES ON COR REFORMS

After a long journey during which various parts of the transport industry took different paths over the years, the ALRTA is very pleased to announce that all ATA members have now reached agreement on the reforms required to improve the application of duties under chain of responsibility laws.

Importantly for the ALRTA, the agreed industry position now accords with our insistence that the general duty applicable to fatigue should be applied to speed and mass/dimension/load restraint. The position also calls for the chain to extend to vehicle maintenance and for greater consistency with work health and safety laws by replacing the concept of ‘all reasonable steps’ with the modern equivalent of ‘reasonably practicable’.

The ALRTA congratulates the ATA for facilitating an excellent internal consultation process and for producing an articulate and well-argued submission in response to the NTC discussion paper.

NTC RELEASES HEAVY VEHICLE ROADWORTHINESS OPTIONS

The NTC has released the next stage of the NTC/NHVR National Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness program, publishing a consultation draft RIS [PDF] identifying four options to improve heavy vehicle safety.

Each of the four options includes potential changes to inspection processes and procedures, education and training, greater capability to target the highest risks, scheduled inspections, accreditation schemes, and possible changes to chain of responsibility laws.

NTC CEO Paul Retter said improving heavy vehicle roadworthiness would reduce the pain of road trauma, increase the productivity of truck fleets and also reduce traffic congestion caused by truck breakdowns.

“People should bear in mind that none of these packages represent final decisions but are instead designed to encourage feedback from stakeholders on areas of possible reform,” Mr Retter said.

Interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the options via the NTC’s website before Monday, 23 March 2015. The ALRTA will work with the ATA in the preparation of a submission.

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