ALRTA News – NHVR needs real power on access, spray suppression, braking, charging model, livestock standstill

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The ALRTA strongly supports calls by the NHVR CEO, Sal Pettrocitto, to wrestle power away from state and local governments on road access decisions and to reduce the 28 day limit for authorities to make access decisions.

Everyone is shouting at the regulator about their permit delays when all the NHVR really does is take your application, coordinate the process and inform you of the decision.  NHVR does not make the decision and has to rely on road managers who have the real power to decide – and the law gives them 28 days to think about it.

What is it they say about shooting the messenger?

Certainly, there were big problems with the NHVR early on, but recent statistics clearly shows that the holdups are usually at the state and local level.  Except that is, for Victoria.

The Victorian Government has taken the bit between the teeth and made their system work.  A massive effort has gone into pre-assessment and pre-approval of heavy vehicle routes which has reduced permit turn-around times to 2 days or less.  Let’s give credit where credit is due here.  It’s a lesson the other States could learn from.

One operator from Victoria got a good taste of the massive difference just across the border in NSW this week.  Ten decks of sheep need a ride on B-doubles within the week, but the major regional Council concerned just doesn’t seem to care.  There is no urgency in their consideration of the application and you’d reckon it was the first one they had ever received.

Right across NSW we find the same sort of thing with the State needing their very own Harvest Mass Management Scheme that is different to all the others and then a lot of the major regional councils just snub their nose at it anyway. It’s not good enough and we need real change. It’s time our customers, including agricultural producers and their peak bodies, also got behind us and pushed harder for access to local roads.

Perhaps I dreamt it, but I thought the NHVR was going to fix all that.  The same vehicles were going to have the same access with the same conditions right around the country. Why can’t we have just one Harvest Mass Management Scheme? – the best one.

I do have to be fair though and acknowledge that the States never did agree to give their access powers away.  But they did promise to play nicely with one another and with the new regulator.  Keeping their powers wasn’t going to be a problem because they were all committed to a common goal that would unlock billions in productivity and benefit governments, industry and the community.

But then comes the ‘tragedy of the commons’.  In the end, self-interest prevails and good intentions give way to tight budgets, job protection and local politics.

That’s precisely why we need a strong national regulator with real power on access.  The decision-maker needs to be objective, fearless and able to do what is in the best interest of the Australian community. It needs to call a spade a spade. When a road manager is not managing their road properly the NHVR must have real teeth and be willing to use them.

Industry peak bodies can help the regulator in this regard.  We are continuing to call for the NHVR to establish regular meetings between the NHVR Industry Operations Group and the state and territory service providers so we can confront them directly on deficiencies in the services provided.  After all, we are paying the bill.


The ALRTA applauds the announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Truss to immediately remove the requirement for spray suppression on FIRS registered B-doubles.  WA and NT have never had the requirement and it was removed for other state-registered vehicles when upon the commencement of the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

Spray suppression has been found to be ineffectual and removal of the requirement will save the industry around $8.3m annually. This is around $5,800 on a new B-double set and a further $1,640 per set per year in maintenance costs.


The ALRTA has supplied comments to the industry-government heavy vehicle braking group concerning draft guidelines for mixing and matching trailers with different braking assemblies.  LRTASA President David Smith represented the ALRTA on working group meeting this week.  One of our main concerns is to make sure the guidelines address the mixing of new ‘smart’ technology with older traditional ‘dumb’ technology.


The ALRTA Executive Director attended an NTC workshop to explore changes to the NTC PAYGO charging model.  Charging will be a big issue next year when transport Ministers revisit their decision to continue overcharging operators around $230m annually.  It is vital that the ALRTA understands any changes that have been made to the charging model so that we have our facts straight when we launch our campaign in 2015.


The ALRTA Executive Director and LBCA General Manager attended a Department of Agriculture workshop in Canberra to discuss communication strategies in the event of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Australia.

The first thing that would happen in any outbreak would be a 72hr mandatory standstill during which livestock cannot be moved while an investigation takes place.

A workshop earlier this year explored the messages and channels available to tell industry about the standstill.  The workshop this week considered how to communicate that the standstill has been lifted or extended.  FMD affects a lot of industries and so the workshop was very well attended.  It was also great to hear the experiences of observers from other countries including the UK where an outbreak last occurred in 2001. The importance of being ready to act if the worst happens cannot be overstated.


The ALRTA made a submission to the NTC in response to a proposed new matrix that would be used to assess the penalty level that should be applied to any new offences that might be brought into the Heavy Vehicle National Law.   We were unconvinced that the assessment matrix added any value that couldn’t be achieved by the simple approach of:

  • lowering penalties for administrative and minor offences; and
  • increasing penalties for deliberate safety breaches.

We did however agree with six of seven proposed principles for applying demerit points. We have previously called for a principled (rather than an ad hoc) approach in this area and it was good to see this suggestion taken on board. You might be happy to know that new demerit proposals from some individual states just don’t stack up against the principles.


The ALRTA would like to introduce you to our new Office Manager, Rebecca Coleman, who started last Monday.  Rebecca has extensive experience in administration / office management and also has skills in project management, quality assurance, human resources, accounts and event management.

Rebecca will most likely be the first person you deal with if you call, email or fax either the ALRTA or LBCA so make sure you say ‘Hi’ and make her feel welcome.