Australia: Heavy Vehicle National Law commenced on 10 February 2014

Last Updated: 13 February 2014
Article by Simone Farrugia and Andrew Tulloch

In brief - New law designed to promote consistent heavy vehicle laws across Australia

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is designed to reduce inconsistencies, duplication, red tape and costs to the road transport industry.

National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will administer the HVNL

The HVNL commenced in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania on 10 February 2014 and applies to all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (including special purpose and passenger carrying vehicles).

The HVNL does not apply to vehicles travelling in Western Australia and it is expected that the law will commence in the Northern Territory at a later date. Implementation in the Australian Capital Territory will also at this stage be limited to certain key sections of the HVNL, including access.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) which is an independent regulator established under the Heavy Vehicle National Law Act 2012 (Qld) will administer the HVNL.

The HVNL has been promoted as a means to reduce duplication and inconsistencies across state and territory borders, cut costs, red tape and confusion and deliver safer and more efficient operations.

Key features of the Heavy Vehicle 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, issue all access permits and manage nationally consistent fatigue management laws
  • there will be one national set of standardised notices and guidelines and one set of national fees and penalties

What is managed by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

With the implementation of the HVNL, the NHVR is now responsible for:

  • Applications for new heavy vehicle access permits.
  • Applications to participate in the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS), for amendments and to maintain your existing accreditation. 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.
  • Applications for Performance-Based Standards (PBS) Scheme design and PBS vehicle approval applications, including your PBS-approved vehicle access applications
  • Applications for heavy vehicle standards modifications and exemption permits. Existing heavy vehicle approved vehicle examiner schemes and inspection services are still managed by each road transport authority.

NHVR to issue access permits and liaise with state road authorities

Operators will now need to apply to the NHVR directly for new heavy vehicle access permits. The implementation of the HVNL means that heavy vehicle operators will only need to apply for one permit from the NHVR when travelling interstate. The NHVR will liaise with road managers (state and territory road authorities and local councils) to manage the application and issue any permits. Each permit will cost $70, regardless of the travel distance.

Each application must be determined within 28 days for new applications or 14 days for a renewal of existing applications. This time period can be extended for up to six months if the road manager considers a route assessment is necessary.

NHVR to impose conditions on access permits as necessary

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 the event that an alternative route is proposed, the NHVR will discuss the new proposed route with the carrier.

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.

If an operator has an existing access permit, there is no need to re-apply. Current permits are valid until the stated expiration date or three years after the HVNL commences, whichever comes first.

A new national driver work diary

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

An existing work diary can be used for up to six months after the HVNL commences.

What the new HVNL hasn't changed

While the aim of the HVNL is to promote one set of national laws and penalties, there will still be some aspects of the heavy vehicle industry that will remain the same. Specifically, for heavy vehicle registration, inspections, driver licensing and all matters related to the carriage of dangerous goods, operators will still deal with the relevant state or territory government department.

Roadside compliance and enforcement of the national law will still be delivered by state and territory police and transport inspectors. Finally, legal and court processes are largely the same.

Simone Farrugia Andrew Tulloch
Transport and logistics
CBP Lawyers

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Simone Farrugia
Andrew Tulloch
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