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NatRoad is your voice to government and regulators

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Submissions


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NatRoad’s role includes making formal submissions to various government bodies on a wide range of policy issues affecting the road freight industry, with the aim of improving the business environment for our members and the industry in general.


 

Submitted to: National Transport Commission

Date submitted: 25 October 2021

Introduction:

  1. The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) is very concerned with the direction of the HVNL review. With that concern in mind, we write this submission ahead of the industry workshop to be held on 25 October 2021, after having received extensive but time-constrained member feedback on the current proposals.
  2. The submission is also made to flag early our members’ rejection of the fundamental underpinnings of the proposals proffered. Two specialist working groups have given feedback that the proposals to be considered are not the direction of reform required.  The workshop will consider a draft paper entitled Fatigue Management: General Schedule Industry Workshop Paper #1 (Draft Paper) which was provided to two NatRoad working groups.
  3. NatRoad is Australia’s largest national representative road freight transport operators’ association. NatRoad represents road freight operators, from owner-drivers to large fleet operators, general freight, road trains, livestock, tippers, car carriers, as well as tankers and refrigerated freight operators.  Working groups are convened from these members and include owner operators as well as other small and medium to large transport businesses.
  4. This submission responds to the questions posed in the Draft Paper.. We indicate in bold the specific questions from the Draft Paper that we have answered. We briefly set out the problem with fatigue incidents and the administrative requirements of the fatigue management law before answering the specific questions.
  5. Recent industry research has shown that, in 2020, fatigue crashes continued their long-term decline, following a plateau reached between 2017-2109.[1] How what is proposed will add to or detract from that trend is not discernible.  We note that some of the material relied on by the NTC in the Draft Paper dates from 2001.

The Problem: Why Focus on Standard Hours for Further Constraints?

  1. During the course of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review, NatRoad has been consistent in its view that there appears to be no measurable beneficial effect of the passage of the HVNL in controlling the risk of fatigue related incidents. Yet the HVNL has a very large number of highly prescriptive provisions purportedly directed to the control of the risk of driving whilst fatigued, centred around a range of pedantic administrative rules that are often the focus of enforcement efforts.  The underlying dysfunctional aspect of the current laws is that a driver is able to comply with the prescriptive rules yet still be impaired by fatigue.  There is nothing in the Draft Paper that diverts us from that view or which foreshadows an improvement in this basic problem.
  2. In addition, recommendation 9.1 of the Productivity Commission in its transport regulatory reform report[2] was that the HVNL should be amended to remove unnecessarily prescriptive elements from the legislation and to support greater use of ‘deemed to comply’ provisions in other regulatory instruments. It said that in order to give effect to this recommendation, legislative change would be required from all governments that are signatory to the HVNL.  Hence focusing on re-arranging, detrimentally, prescriptive requirements (and limiting discussion to those elements) is not supported.
  3. Administrative controls don’t work to optimally manage fatigue and the Draft Paper appears to be proposing to replace, for those governed by Standard Hours, the current levels of prescription and administrative requirements with a new set of prescriptive requirements.
  4. NatRoad submits that additional rest breaks for higher risk work is a possible solution to the increased risk of fatigue related incidents during certain times e.g. when driving at night, but not for all transport work. To work, this high risk solution would need greater investment by governments in properly structured rest areas that have a full range of amenities. NatRoad believes that government must mandate rest area construction along new or remediated road structures so that there are adequate rest areas throughout Australia’s road network.  Rest area construction should be a mandatory component of the construction of new roads and where roads are upgraded.  NTC should be able to answer the question of what facilities would be available and appropriately spaced to fit in practical terms with its proposals.
  5. In addition, NatRoad is committed to assisting the roll out of effective fatigue monitoring devices. They are sure to be better than setting prescriptive hours. Investment in this technology and its greater take up by industry are steps preferred to the current proposals inclusive of the 17% reduction that would result from the adoption of the 60 hours maximum of working time. Member are particularly concerned with that concept being redefined to further reduce productive time per Table 2 of the Draft Paper (see comments to that effect below).
  6. NatRoad is supportive of work underway at present using different fatigue metrics and other body responses to refine current fatigue monitoring systems to accurately predict and provide a warning to the driver well before the onset of behaviour that could lead to an incident. Success with development of technology of this kind would give drivers and operators the ability to respond before any sign of fatigue sets in rather than to force them, prescriptively to take a break in terms prescribed in the Draft Paper to assist to ameliorate “drowsiness”.
  7. Any system of greater flexibility (which would not be derived from the proposals in the Draft Paper) should be established in an industry code of practice. Plainly stated high level duties should be expressed in the statute. Assurance activities to meet these duties should be encouraged and the prescriptive regime proposed set aside.

The Questions

Question 1: Is this ruleset simpler? In what ways does the revised structure seem simpler than the current standard hours?

  1. NatRoad WGs said “No” to the first part of this question. In particular one member said of the proposed rule set:

Don’t change the definition of work, again. We still have drivers approach us now, asking for the definition of the current rule. There were changes along the way, personal use of a fatigue regulated heavy vehicle, work vs rest time when sitting in the driver’s seat of a stationary vehicle that is queued to load.

  1. The following part of the proposal was considered confusing and opaque:

In addition to the maximum total work of 12 hours no heavy vehicle driving is permitted after more than 14 hours time has elapsed since the drivers last long rest break of 8 continuous hours or more. This limitation on driving does not alter the amount of time spent working (including driving)

  1. The feedback was: “What on earth does ‘after 14 hours time has elapsed’ mean? And the last sentence is baffling.”

Question 2: In what ways does it seem more complex?

  1. See the response to question 1. Plus the “exceptional circumstances” at up to 2 hours that prevents you working the next day for the same time period would appear to involve detailed record keeping at times of high stress.  As one WG member said:

The minute you say you can lend some hours from today and payback tomorrow there is another opening for mistakes / confusion.

Question 3: Does this give you operational flexibility?

  1. There was a resounding “No” from WG members, especially as they would be constrained in many of the ways that they currently contract to deliver freight.
  2. One WG members said:

The proposals will reduce working time. Owner drivers in particular will only be able, typically, to make 5 journeys per week instead of the current six, and who can afford to do that on current low margins? The bulk of the freight task we do is capital to capital – East coast. This task typically requires 12 hours per shift to undertake, either between BRI – SYD or SYD – MEL. While highways have improved, congestion entering or exiting the capitals has gotten worst.

Congestion around the loading points has also gotten worst. Shortening this 12 hour work time is not compatible with city to city journeys. The reduction will place a critical demand on operators to either use local fleets to load and unload trailers or just drop a journey. Subbies, particularly owner drivers, do not typically have local fleets to do this and will be severely impacted in their work and in earning income.

  1. Another member said:

The stated desire is for the new General Schedule (GS) to apply to as many HV operators as possible. That seems unlikely as the GS reduces Standard Hours by just on 17% to 60 hours per week. I seriously doubt that an operator can cop a 17% reduction in income and no owner driver will survive on mandated maximum working hours of only 60 hours per week if they have built their business model on a 72 hour week. The idea that reducing a short rest break to 10 minutes from 15 minutes is improving flexibility doesn’t work when the maximum work period is reduced from 5 ½ hours back to 4 hours.

Particularly crippling is the absolute no driving after 14 hours from the start of work, irrespective of how many hours of work has been done. All that will do is strand drivers away from home and a proper night’s sleep.

Question 4: Is the duration of break within work within work rest breaks of recommended 15 minutes feasible? Is the minimum 10 min specification helping with compliance?

  1. The response was mixed with most members saying that focus on reducing the maximum work period to 4 hours was a constraint that wouldn’t work and therefore the 10 minute rest break issue was not an important issue.

Question 5: How would you define unforeseen circumstances and how often the unforeseen circumstances could appear in a week?

  1. This question evoked anger. Members referred to the earlier comments (para 18 above) about congestion which is a growing.  They referred to the fact that “safe trip” planning doesn’t work, and, for example, the way in which freight deliveries are held up at borders during COVID has changed everything.  One member expressed a view endorsed by other WG members as follows:

Unforeseen circumstances in general freight is much more often the case than not; this question shows a complete lack of knowledge of how this industry works. It is definitely not clockwork, never has been and never will be.

Question 6: Is this General Schedule practical and feasible? If not, what needs to change to reach that outcome? Can you provide real life example or any evidence to support this approach?

  1. Again the resounding answer is “No” to the first part of this question. The entire approach needs to change to deliver “practical and feasible” reform, as discussed in paragraphs 6-12 of this submission.  “Real life examples” or “evidence” could only be obtained through simulation or objective evidence gathering.  The views of the WGs is summed up in this comment from one member:

By reducing the current 17 hr window to achieve 12 hrs work to a 14hrs window all you are achieving is jamming the same task into a lesser time frame creating more stress which is a huge creator of fatigue in itself.

  1. One member wanted this question to be asked in relation to some of the assumptions underpinning the proposed general schedule and for the NTC to have greater assurance that the basis of the general schedule could be proven in practice:

We should seek greater evidence about the hypothetical assertion in the scientific evidence that 4hrs work drive time is safer than 5; this is the elephant in the room for all tiers of fatigue management moving forward.

Question 7: What other aspects are required to develop this proposed reform? How would we be able to demonstrate that your suggested change would be effective?

  1. The assumptions underpinning these questions are rejected. As stated above replacing the current levels of prescription and administrative requirements with a new set of prescriptive requirements, and not discussed but assumed administrative requirements, is not a reform approach we endorse.

Question 8: Could you identify any operational obstacles to implement the proposed General Schedule? How would you approach this differently? What is the scientific / safety evidence/data to back your proposed approach?

  1. Reducing the income levels of most small operators is a major obstacle. The different approach we would adopt has been articulated in prior submissions to the NTC where we have gone into great detail about the approach we would take to reform of the fatigue laws. Those proposals bear no resemblance to what is currently proposed.  We have provided evidence in the prior submissions.

Question 9: Looking at the General Schedule, how do you think it will impact on:

  1. Driver health and wellbeing
  2. Driver safety
  3. Driver earnings
  4. Fatigue related incidents
  5. Ability for operators to recruit and retain heavy vehicle drivers
  6. Overall costs of heavy vehicle transport
  7. These questions need the discipline of economic modelling and simulation to be applied, not a week’s consideration. What impact assessment has the NTC undertaken?

Question 10: Is there any evidence that could be used to back any of the above answers?

  1. The evidence of confusion caused by re-framing the definition of work is apparent when a consideration of the terms of the industrial relations safety net for long distance work is considered, the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2020. The Award is clear that drivers get paid for “driving time” which “means all time driving the vehicle between destinations but not including rest breaks.”  Other aspects of that Award should be examined in the current context e.g. the wage related allowances at clause 18.2(a) where items of work are compensated for in the driving rate.

[1]   National Transport Insurance and National Truck Accident Research Centre,  NTARC ‒ Major Accident Investigation 2021 Report,  2021 p14.

[2] https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/transport/report

Submitted to: Australian Industry Standards

Date submitted: 14 October 2021

Summary: The National Road Transport Association strongly supports the establishment of an apprentice system for the road transport industry.

As Australia’s largest national representative road freight transport operators’ association, we are acutely aware of a widespread shortage of drivers across Australia.

While development of an apprenticeship program will not be a silver bullet, it would be a step in the right direction in addressing the issue.

A 2016 identified that employers find it difficult to recruit not just the quantity but particularly the quality of drivers needed. 52 per cent reported having issues attracting the quantity of drivers needed and 82 per cent had problems attracting the quality of drivers they expect.

Over time, the issue has worsened. NatRoad’s 2021 annual survey of members found that 45% of respondents reported that they were experiencing a driver shortage.

There is a pressing need to allocate much greater industry and government resources to the issues associated with training and the development of career pathways in the road transport industry.

NatRoad has consistently expressed strong support for improved driver training, comprising a nationally recognised qualification combined with supervised on-the-job experience and a move to competency based licensing arrangements. The option of an apprenticeship pathway aligns with that objective.

The current time-based requirement for heavy vehicle licencing is poorly conceived and delays the natural progression of young but highly competent drivers in certain license categories.

This is frustrating for young people who want to work in road transport, and potential drivers are more likely to change to a profession that offers faster job progression and earlier access.

The Australian Industry Standards Consultation Paper concisely covers the relevant issues and only lacks a timeline for development.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – Proposal For Heavy Vehicle Driver Apprenticeship

Submitted to: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Date submitted: 6 October 2021

Summary: This submission responds to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Issues Paper on the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) monopoly power position over large tracts of railway track. It first sets out factors affecting the competitive environment of the rail network and the influence of road freight on modal competition and, secondly, the anti-competitive practices of the ARTC when assessing permission for, in particular, A-doubles to cross its tracks.

NatRoad takes the stance that as road and rail transport have different strengths, they are not perfect substitutes, and businesses will select the mode which best meets their needs, subject to market prices. Much of the freight load on major routes will not be contestable, and in many cases, road and rail act as complementary modes of transport.

One of the areas of road transport that is crying out for reform is the access system. The submission shows how the ARTC is using access to rail crossings to in effect stop or heavily restrict access by A doubles, a highly productive heavy vehicle combination. This measure is affecting road transport productivity. NatRoad asks the ACCC to act to impose more reasonable requirements on the ARTC for access to rail crossings. There is no safety issue in play: supervision of rail crossings for A doubles appears to be required (at great cost) on the basis that the extended crossing time of a longer combination is outside the parameters of the current crossing warning device timings. But this is counter intuitive when the best interests of safety are met when combinations slow down to cross railway tracks.

The submission focuses on a case study from Victoria to illustrate the problem of restrictions on A doubles crossing tracks, concluding that more work needs to be done on getting a national perspective on the nature and extent of the problem of access to level crossings for A doubles. The ACCC should take this matter further and use this submission as a stimulus for detailed investigation of the practice of supervision that adversely affects A double operators.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – The Regulatory Framework for ARTC’s Interstate Network

Submitted to: Treasury

Date submitted: 20 September 2021

Summary: The Bill’s objectives are on point and supported. It is designed to reduce the frequency of use of unfair terms in standard form contracts. That will help small transport businesses entering into standard agreements with larger, more powerful customers and contractors. The draft legislation has been prepared for comment following detailed consultation last year when NatRoad made extensive submissions.

Commonwealth, state and territory consumer affairs Ministers then agreed to pursue a number of reforms, having found unfair contract terms to be used all too often in small business contracts. The Bill is based on the Ministers’ agreed reforms.

One of the reforms sought by NatRoad is present in the draft Bill: prohibiting the use, application and reliance on an unfair term. When you combine this reform with the ability of courts to impose a financial penalty for a contravention, the legislation is a step forward.

At the moment an unfair contract term can be considered “fair” in one context even though it was held by a court to be unfair in another contract. This issue is addressed with the law saying that a term is unfair if a court has already found a similar term used in similar circumstances is unfair, although evidence can be given to show why that prior ruling should be set aside i.e. the new law introduces what is known as a “rebuttable presumption” that the first finding of unfairness continues.

The draft law would also increase the eligibility of businesses covered by the protections by expanding the coverage from businesses that employ fewer than 20 employees to those which employ fewer than 100 employees. It also introduces an annual turnover threshold of less than $10 million instead of using staff size to determine eligibility. We support extending the reach of the law.

Whilst NatRoad supports the Bill more reform is needed, particularly in relation to protection of small businesses against unfair payment terms clauses. We also want to see the need to go to court on all matters relating to unfair contracts dropped and for the ACCC as regulator to be given more power.
Despite these issues concerning more reform, we submit that the changes proposed in the draft law should be enacted as soon as possible.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – Unfair Contract Term Protections: Exposure Draft Bill

Submitted to: The National Transport Commission

Date submitted: 24 August 2021

Summary:

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) is pleased to respond to the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) consultation regulation impact statement relating to proposed heavy vehicle charges from 2022-23 (CRIS).

NatRoad strongly believes that road charging reform must take into account all road users and provide a better, more equitable system for paying for the costs of road construction.

Until the Heavy Vehicle Road Reform (HVRR) process is implemented, we support a fixed price increase of a 3.5% or CPI increase (whichever is lower) for heavy vehicle charges that provides cost certainty and better equity to the heavy vehicle industry.

Our industry has suffered from the impact of bush fires, floods and now COVID-19, as acknowledged by Transport Ministers. These events and difficult industry conditions have constrained the industry’s ability to cope with increased costs, inclusive of government charges.

In simple terms, the PAYGO model for heavy vehicle charges is broken. It should not be used other than as a 2021-22 baseline on which to calculate future HV charges.

It assumes that all Australia’s roads are sealed when the majority are not. It operates to include all costs incurred in one year in the next year’s charges. Capital and current costs are not separated.

And it results in payments flowing to States and Territories that do not take into account the real cost recovery need for road construction and maintenance as that is related to heavy vehicle usage.

A new model is needed to underpin the HVRR process. In the meantime, a fixed price increase is a better outcome than PAYGO or alternative models.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – Heavy Vehicle Charges determination: consultation regulation impact statement

Submitted to: Submission to Transport for NSW

Date submitted: 29 July 2021

Summary: This submission provides comments on draft Regulations proposed as a substitute for current regulations that operate as subordinate legislation pursuant to the Road Transport Act 2013,(NSW).

The submission considers that the RIS is insufficiently robust, that proper evidence on which to
examine the provisions of the proposed new regulatory regime has not been gathered and that
further work on the rationale and basis for the Proposed Regulation needs to be undertaken.

This is especially the case having regard to the Productivity Commission’s finding that NSW has more derogations from the Heavy Vehicle National Law than any other jurisdiction and that each derogation should be removed unless justified on the basis of safety. That exercise should have been undertaken but has not been attempted. On that basis NatRoad recommends that the Proposed Regulation not proceed until a better evidentiary base for all of its provisions has been prepared.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – NSW Speed Camera Inquiry

Submitted to: Submission to Transport for NSW

Date submitted: 29 July 2021

Summary: This submission provides comments on draft Regulations proposed as a substitute for current regulations that operate as subordinate legislation pursuant to the Road Transport Act 2013,(NSW).

The submission considers that the RIS is insufficiently robust, that proper evidence on which to
examine the provisions of the proposed new regulatory regime has not been gathered and that
further work on the rationale and basis for the Proposed Regulation needs to be undertaken.

This is especially the case having regard to the Productivity Commission’s finding that NSW has more derogations from the Heavy Vehicle National Law than any other jurisdiction and that each derogation should be removed unless justified on the basis of safety. That exercise should have been undertaken but has not been attempted. On that basis NatRoad recommends that the Proposed Regulation not proceed until a better evidentiary base for all of its provisions has been prepared.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – NSW Speed Camera Inquiry

Submitted to: NSW Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety

Date submitted: 8 July 2021

Summary: This submission reinforces that education of drivers must be a key component of enforcement of speeding laws. Because of this essential element of enforcement, NatRoad opposes the removal of warning signs where mobile speed cameras are placed.

In essence, every enforcement camera tackling speed in NSW must have a warning sign to remind all drivers to do the right thing and check their speed.

NatRoad calls for consistent and better signage for all speeding warnings. This step is vital for heavy vehicle drivers in NSW which has significant roads applying a lower speed limit for trucks, such as the notorious Mount Ousley descent near Wollongong. Variable speed limits can lead to inadvertent non-compliance where signage isn’t at key decision points or is inadequate in warning heavy vehicles of a different speed limit applying to them when compared with light vehicles.
NatRoad also calls on the NSW Government to separate data on heavy vehicle and light vehicle enforcement numbers. Measuring the effects of mobile and other speed detection devices should be undertaken using data that is specific to the heavy vehicle industry.

NatRoad also reinforces that reducing speed is not a silver bullet for road safety but must be accompanied by other improvements such as improvements in infrastructure.

If speed cameras are to be deployed, mobile speed cameras should be placed at the lead up to sharp corners, especially where evidence shows they are ‘black spots’. Making necessary infrastructure adjustments, particularly where off-camber incidents are prevalent, should be a high priority for governments.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – NSW Speed Camera Inquiry

Submitted to: Victorian Department of Transport

Date submitted: 8 July 2021

Summary: This submission provides comments on draft Regulations proposed as a substitute for current regulations that operate as subordinate legislation pursuant to the Road Safety Act, 1986 (Vic).

NatRoad supports most of the provisions of the Regulations whilst having concerns about the basis on which fees are to be applied regarding registration functions (i.e. using out-of-date data). We commend the move to an activity based costing model. That model should disaggregate the heavy vehicle sector and fees should be better tailored to reflect costs incurred on behalf of the heavy vehicle sector. Until that model is in place fees for heavy vehicle registration related administration in particular should not be increased.

As the draft Regulations affect the heavy vehicle sector concerning the administration of vehicle registration in Victoria, NatRoad seeks changes to the primary production registration concession in Victoria, discussed in detail, inclusive of the introduction of farm registration plates. This is a pressing issue for members and is therefore given priority in NatRoad’s analysis of omissions from the draft Regulations.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – VIC Regulation

Submitted to: Transport and Customer Service Committee, NSW Legislative Council

Date submitted: 23 May 2021

Summary: The road transport industry is extremely competitive with a large number of small operators with poor profitability. The average net profit (after tax) margin has fallen to about 3%, increasing pressure on many owners when it comes to modernising their equipment. Tolls are one element of costs over which road transport operators have no control, and their burden has been increasing over the last three to five years. There is a lack of transparency and fairness in tolling for heavy vehicles.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – Inquiry into Road Tolling Regimes

Submitted to: National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

Date submitted: 30 April 2021

Summary: This submission provides NatRoad’s response to the Draft Heavy Vehicle Safety Strategy 2021-25

Outcome: Awaited

Document: NatRoad Submission: Draft Heavy Vehicle Safety Strategy 2021-25

Submitted to: Office of Road Safety

Date submitted: 23 March 2021

Summary: This submission responds to the Consultation Draft of the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-30

Outcome: Awaited

Document: NatRoad Submission – 2021 National Road Safety Strategy

Submitted to: National Transport Commission

Date submitted: 12 March 2021

Summary: The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) is pleased to make comments on the Heavy vehicle charges consultation report1 (Consultation Report) released by the National Transport Commission (NTC) in January 2021.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: NatRoad Submission: NTC Paper – HV Charges Consultation Report 2021

Submitted to: National Transport Commission

Date submitted: 1 March 2021

Summary: This submission seeks to reform the myriad State and Territory requirements about notification of operators about driver offences. NatRoad would like the Queensland model adopted Australia wide.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: NatRoad Submission – Driver Offence Notification Systems

Submitted to: Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Date submitted: 24 February 2021

Summary: A submission opposing mandating Euro VI unless a range of concessions are developed with respect to width, length and axle weight maxima.  Market mechanisms are acting to introduce Euro VI technology to the Australian market.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: NatRoad Submission-2020 Vehicle Emission Standards and moving to Euro VI Response to RIS

Submitted to: Level 5 Design on behalf of Austroads

Date submitted: 17 February 2021

Summary: The 1994 vehicle classification system is under review and the consultant engaged to undertake the review sought input from NatRoad.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: NatRoad Submission – Level 5 Design on Behalf of Austroads – Vehicle classification

Submitted to: Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee Inquiry

Date submitted: 5 February 2021

Summary: This submission supports the small steps represented by the Bill towards workplace reform. The critical element of the Bill is the clarification of the status of a casual employee which is currently the subject of uncertainty caused by court decisions that do not represent practical means to facilitate casual engagement.

Outcome: Awaited

Document: Submission – Senate Cttee – Omnibus Bill