Australia: Get ready! The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) commences in February 2014

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) will commence in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania on 10 February 2014. The HVNL will apply to all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass. It will not apply to vehicles travelling in Western Australia because Western Australia has not yet signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Heavy Vehicle Regulatory Reform.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) opened for business in January 2013. The NHVR is an independent regulator established under the Heavy Vehicle National Law Act 2012 (Qld) and will administer the HVNL.

Key features of the new national law

The key features of the HVNL are:

  • heavy vehicle operators will only need one access permit to travel interstate;
  • the NHVR will receive all access applications and issue all access permits;
  • there will be one national set of standardised notices and guidelines;
  • the NHVR will manage nationally consistent fatigue management laws; and
  • there will be one set of national fees and penalties.

The new access management system

The new access management system means that heavy vehicle operators will only need to apply for one permit from the NHVR when travelling interstate. Each permit will cost $70, regardless of the travel distance. Previously, operators had to apply for separate permits from each state.

Heavy vehicle operators will need to use the online NHVR Journey Planner to map their journey and complete an application form for an access permit. The NHVR will then refer the application to the relevant road manager (such as the local council or port authority). The road manager has 28 days in which to assess the application, except if the NHVR is seeking to renew an existing access permit for the same vehicle on the same route, in which case the road manager has 14 days to respond. These time limits are intended to address industry concerns that road managers currently take too long to assess applications. The road manager can apply for an extension of up to six months if the road manager considers a route assessment is necessary. A route assessment involves an assessment of the road infrastructure to decide the impact a grant of access will have or is likely to have on that infrastructure.

The road manager will be able to impose travel, road and vehicle conditions on the access permit, such as the direction and speed of travel, access to certain sections of road, the load the vehicle may carry, and the times of travel. The road manager will also be able to propose an alternative route, in which case the NHVR will then confer with the carrier about the new proposed route.

If the application is approved, the NHVR will issue the relevant permit. If the application is refused, the road manager must provide reasons for the decision. An applicant then has 28 days in which to apply to the NHVR for an internal review of the decision.

The NHVR is aware that when the Journey Planner 'goes live', it will not include the location of rest stops. The NHVR is working to address this error.

Pre-approved routes for certain vehicles

The NVHR Journey Planner will initially display approved routes for B-double, HML, PBS, road trains and some commodity routes. Additional approved routes will be added in consultation with industry.

Saving frequent journeys

Operators will be able to save journeys from the NVHR Journey Planner and re-use these in subsequent applications.

Existing guidelines / notices to remain effective

All existing guidelines and notices will remain effective. These will be consolidated into 30 new national gazette notices.

Fatigue management now managed by NHVR

The NHVR now manages all applications under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS). Heavy vehicle operators will need to apply to the NHVR for Mass Management, Maintenance Management, Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) and Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM). Any current NHVAS accreditation granted by a state or territory will remain valid for the life of that accreditation. All drivers must carry a copy of the relevant accreditation certificate.

From 10 February 2014, there will be a new national work diary. All drivers of fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles who drive more than 100 km from their home base or operate under BFM or AFM must complete a work diary to record their work and rest times. In Queensland, drivers previously only had to complete a work diary for journeys of more than 200 km. Queensland drivers should therefore be particularly mindful of this change.

What you need to do

  • If you require a new access permit prior to 10 February 2014 – apply through your current local authority.
  • If you require a new access permit on or after 10 February 2014 – apply online through the NHVR.
  • If you have an existing access permit – there is no need to re-apply when the HVNL commences. The permit will remain valid until it expires or it is replaced under the national access framework, whichever comes first.
  • If you need an approval from a third party (such as a power company) – apply directly to that third party, not to the NHVR.
  • If you are a transport operator and want BFM or AFM accreditations – apply to the NHVR now – there is no need to wait until 10 February 2014. Any existing accreditation will remain valid until it expires.
  • If you are a driver travelling more than 100 km from your base – you must use the new national work diary from 10 February 2014, or, alternatively, continue to use your existing diary for six months (until 10 August 2014) at which time you much switch over to the new diary.

Cooper Grace Ward acts for a variety of road transport operators from owner drivers to national logistics companies. We also act for heavy machinery and earthmoving contractors and for insurers involved in the heavy motor insurance industry. We can help your transport business in all aspects of carriage.

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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