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TRUSS REITERATES STRONG SUPPORT FOR THE NHVR
The ALRTA was part of an industry delegation that met with Deputy Prime Minister Truss last week to discuss a range of issues relating to the operations of the NHVR. Primary among our concerns is the ongoing funding of the NHVR, cooperation of the States and Territories, NHVR consultation arrangements, chain of responsibility, road worthiness, and charging.
The Deputy Prime Minister remains strongly supportive of the NHVR concept and is prepared to champion the issue among his state counterparts, some of whom appear less than fully committed. Several States reneged on their initial funding commitments, burdening the fledgling NHVR with debts before it even opened the doors and even now continue to be the weak link in the service chain.
While the ALRTA appreciates the strong support of the Deputy Prime Minister, operators need to keep in mind that the HVNL is fundamentally based on harmonised State law. As such, the success of the NHVR very much depends on the States working cooperatively and respecting the NHVR as the central authority it is intended to be.
NHVR IMPROVES CONSULTATION ARRANGEMENTS
The ALRTA has been lobbying for improved NHVR consultation arrangements since December 2013 when we first wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss recommending that a high level stakeholder group be in place prior to ‘go live’ the 10 February 2014. We reasoned that regular consultation would be vital for promptly addressing ‘teething’ issues in the first year and for contributing to the strategic direction of the agency in future years.
An Industry Operations Group (IOG) was established by the former NHVR CEO to provide advice on the new forms and processes that would be needed to support the NHVR’s frontline services. However, this group was not designed to consider broader strategic issues and it did not interface at all with state and territory service providers.
Over the past 15 months we have continued to seek improvements to the consultation arrangements. Current NHVR CEO Sal Petrocitto has recognised the merits of our arguments and has now agreed to a raft of positive changes, including:
- Establishing a high level strategic consultation group: The IOG has been reconstituted as a high level Stakeholder Reference Group. It will now focus on providing strategic advice to the NHVR on matters such as productivity & safety, road access, regulatory compliance and stakeholder communication. Basically, it will be all about what type of regulator we want and how we can get there.
- Bringing together service users and service providers: The IOG will jointly meet with the providers of regulatory services (state agencies, councils, NTC and police) at least twice annually. I expect these meetings will help build stronger relationships among industry and government stakeholders while also entrenching a regular opportunity to tackle problems with ‘everyone in the same room’.
- A Livestock and Rural Sub-Committee: The NHVR will establish a Livestock and Rural Transport Sub-Committee in which we will be able to bring operators together from around the country to cooperatively progress issues that are a particular problem for our sector.While these developments are a big win for our industry, the primary challenge still lies ahead. We must take the opportunity that the improved consultative framework brings to do everything we can to improve the NHVR and get it where it needs to be.
NTC RECOMMENDS CHARGING INCREASE
The NTC has recommended that a 0.6 per cent increase be applied to the road user charge (a total road user charge rate of 26.3 cents per litre) to take effect from 1 July 2015. Presumably, the States will also separately seek to increase registration charges by a similar proportion.
The ALRTA is very strongly opposed to any increase in the current rate of charging given that the NTC has separately found serious flaws in the current formula which is resulting in over charging of around $200m annually. While Ministers have agreed to apply an adjusted formula from 2016, the NTC remains bound to the old formula which quite incorrectly determines that a charging increase is required to recover costs.
The ALRTA will work with the ATA to develop an agreed response to this ridiculous proposal.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR 2015/16
The ALRTA has had a great start to the year. So far our efforts have resulted in:
- A new ABS exemption for heavy A-trailers such as stock crates;
- Extension of the 160km work diary exemption to all HVNL states except Victoria (and we are still working on that);
- Release and major refinement of a proposed AFM template for livestock and rural transporters; and
- Rapid progression of draft National Guidelines for Loading Ramps and Forcing Yards (look out for a release in early 2015).
Over the last couple of weeks we have also had some success in laying the groundwork on two other important fronts: effluent; and developing a national harvest mass management scheme.
In response to our letter laying out our case for nationally coordinated chain of responsibility enforcement for effluent spills, the NHVR has recognised the importance of the issue and advised that the matter will be progressed as part of a national compliance and enforcement strategy by the ‘soon to be appointed’ Executive Director of Regulatory Compliance, Tony Kursius. So, last week I met with Mr Kursius in Brisbane to provide a background briefing on the issue and begin the conversation about how it might be tackled. Mr Kursius was very approachable on the subject and I look forward to working closely with him throughout the year.
This week I have held discussions with the NTC in which we have proposed a new project to investigate the feasibility of establishing a National Harvest Mass Management Scheme. As you know, this is a common issue across all States, but as usual, each State has gone it alone and developed their very own scheme. This can be frustrating for operators working both sides of the border and indicates that productivity is not being maximised across the nation. There is quite a process for developing and gaining approval for a project of this nature – which is why it is important to get started as soon as possible. The NTC has agreed to develop a ‘candidate proposal’ and the ALRTA will push hard to turn it into a reality in the next project round.
ALRTA SECURES TENANT FOR NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS
I am pleased to advise that this week the ALRTA has agreed terms with a tenant who will take up the remaining two vacant units in our National Headquarters for at least the next five years. While there are significant upfront costs associated with securing the tenancy, the agreement will establish a new income stream for the ALRTA which will improve our financial sustainability and help to support our efforts to improve safety and productivity in our sector.
CONFERENCE SEASON IS UPON US
Any association that can put on a great conference despite a category 5 cyclone hitting the state must be doing something right. Last week the LRTAQ Conference on Moreton Island was a resounding success even if it was a little damp at times. Attendance levels were excellent in the circumstances and the conference program was productive and enjoyable for all participants. David Scott was re-elected President for another term and participants of the Industry Forum revised the LRTAQ Industry Action Plan which will guide the association’s activities for the next 12 months. We also received a good lesson on chain of responsibility and considered the findings of the NTI’s Major Accident Investigation Report 2015.
Next week the LBCA are holding their conference in Jindabyne. It looks like attendance levels will exceed last year’s event in Tamworth and there are multiple highlights to be enjoyed including an address by the NSW Minister for Roads and Ports and presentation of the LBCA’s inaugural Young Driver of the Year Award. A shiny new prime mover will also be auctioned along with a top notch dolly (see LBCA website for details) . Registrations are still available so don’t miss it!
The ATA’s Trucking Australia 2015 Conference will be held in Hobart, 19-21 March 2015. Safety will be a key theme for the event with several other sessions focussing on how to manage a successful business. For more information go to: http://www.truck.net.au/public/trucking-australia