No transport doomsday in 2012

GET ready for a new world.

Before 2012 even began there had been a Hollywood movie about it. All the doomsday prophets are telling us an ancient Mayan calendar predicts the world will end on December 21. Thankfully in the Australian transport industry we have proof the world will not only continue, but will move forward with new beginnings after December 21.

On January 1 next year the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will become an active and integral part of the road transport industry in Australia.

There has been much written about the impact and improvements to come with having one regulator and one set of rules for the industry, and no doubt it will be an improvement on the current system that dates back to before federation.

But will it change how the industry operates and interacts with government? Time will answer that question and will largely depend on the attitude of those who have involvement on both sides of the law.

That word "attitude" is the big factor.

Anyone who has dealt with government departments knows how the entrenched attitude of bureaucrats towards the transport industry varies between each state.

Some authorities are willing to engage and consult with the transport industry, while others have the attitude of "we are the government and this is how it is, end of story". Those who have attended the NatRoad annual conferences and have attended sessions that had representatives from Vicroads, NSW RTA and Queensland Transport would know the differences in attitude presented and their willingness to engage with the industry.

So far the signs are very good, with the role of NHVR being taken on by Queensland and the attitudes of the entrenched bureaucrats all seeming very promising.

Another positive sign of moving forward has been the release before Christmas of proposed changes to the Advanced Fatigue Management component of the fatigue regulations to be governed by the NHVR. I have at times avoided mentioning AFM in this column, not just for the fact that each operator's scheme and accreditation varies from the next, but for the reason that describing entry into AFM as frustrating would be an understatement.

AFM was promised to provide greater flexibility of the outer limits of the fatigue laws for those that had the systems in place to effectively manage their drivers' fatigue and who had a history of best practice for fatigue management.

What was implemented in 2008 couldn't have been further from that, especially in the case of the NSW RTA (now Roads and Maritime Services) with a government body that had people who did not understand not only the concept, but also the implementation of the fatigue regulations. Operators have become disheartened dealing with a NSW bureaucracy which does not understand AFM and its purpose, while over the state borders their competition was being granted not only a commercial advantage, but an advantage in effectively managing driver fatigue. To date, the number of commercial operators in NSW granted AFM accreditation can be counted on one hand, and some have gone interstate to gain accreditation.

The system to be implemented next year of "risk trading" for AFM is encouraging for those of us who have become disheartened, and on the surface it seems to call on the original concept of what AFM was to be when it was first proposed in the early 2000s.

If the NHVR gets this reform right it will go a long way towards establishing its credentials with the industry, but don't expect revolution - it will be evolution. Our industry's attitude will be just as important as that of the NHVR.

On January 1 next year our new world begins.

On January 1 next year the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will become an active and integral part of the road transport industry in Australia.

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