FARMER, transporter and contractor lobby groups are keeping a close eye on the new national regulator for heavy vehicles.
As of Monday, January 21, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will assume control for the regulation and registration of all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes.
Among its duties will be administration of the heavy vehicle accreditation schemes.
Up until now, there have been different laws regarding oversize vehicles in the different states, which has played havoc on farmers with cross-border properties, harvest contractors and the transport industry.
All new applications and renewals will be administered under the new regulator, although current accreditation will remain valid under the terms and conditions it was issued under.
As well as registration, the NHVR is charged with setting prices for applications for involvement in mass management, fatigue management programs and charges for permits for access to roads for heavy vehicles.
While the move to streamline heavy vehicle regulations was welcomed by lobby groups, they remain concerned about the level of stakeholder involvement.
“The intent is good, it is trying to make it easier to move from state to state, but we are still unsure what our level of involvement will be,” said Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Peter Tuohey.
“We welcome the move to standardise conditions, but we wouldn’t want to see more onerous conditions placed upon heavy vehicle operators or see costs rising.
“For instance, we have discounted primary producer registrations here in Victoria and we hope that system is continued under the national scheme.
“The big worry is that we end up with across the board harsh regulations.”
Media manager with the NHVR Tim Hansen said the organisation had been consulting, both formally and informally with key stakeholders and was committed to coming forward with workable policy.
Brett Vagg, the Goondiwindi, Queensland, based president of the Australian Grain Harvesters Association (AGHA) said his organisation thought the idea was good in theory, but said he hoped there would be consultation with stakeholders.
“This is our livelihood and we’re pushing really hard to make sure we are included in consultations from the start,” Mr Vagg said.
Mr Hansen said organisations could make submissions to the NHVR if they had specific concerns.
Mr Vagg said the troubling factor was that nobody appeared to know exactly how the NHVR would work.
“We’re getting conflicting reports from various agencies, and we are just hoping there aren’t decisions made without having a chance to comment.
“It will be great if we can get some uniformity in rules, but we need to make sure it is done properly.”
Mr Hansen said the NHVR, a Federal Government initiative, had a board with a broad skill-set and understood the issues confronted by rural industries such as agriculture and transporters.
“We’re already meeting with lobby groups and the board has an understanding of the issues confronted by rural industries.”
Mr Tuohey said his feedback was that it was so far proving difficult to reach consensus on issues.
“Getting all the previous state-based heavy vehicle administrators, such as the RTA in NSW and VicRoads in Victoria to agree is a laborious battle.”
Mr Hansen said the NHVR would not be implementing its own policies immediately, but was working on developing policies for key areas such as mass management schemes.
“At present, the current schemes applicable in each state will continue to apply, but the long-term plan is to develop over-arching policy, making it simpler for inter-state operators to run their businesses.”
Mr Tuohey said the VFF had also been concerned about initial figures relating to heavy vehicle registrations, saying the figures could cost Victorian freight operators up to 47pc extra.
“Our costings indicate the numbers the NHVR supplied us with would represent a $644,000 increase in registration costs.
“It doesn’t appear the figures have been well costed as yet, as it should be cheaper to administer with just one regulator.”
He said the increased costs came because intra-state freighters had not been factored in.
“The larger inter-state haulers will prosper from the new costing plans, but smaller state based freight providers will not see these benefits if the proposed costs are implemented, and 65pc of freight trips here are intra-state,” Mr Tuohey said.
“By proposing an unjustifiable increase in Victoria, the NHVR seem to be doing the exact opposite of what they have been created to do,” Mr Tuohey said.
However, Mr Hansen said proposed increases were not set in stone.
“We’ve received the submission from the VFF and taken it on board. What we’ve got at present are working policies and we welcome any submissions and will certainly factor them in when making policy decisions.”