A national scheme to harmonise the licensing of heavy vehicle operators in Australia is in crisis as inadequate preparation for the new scheme has led to long delays in the processing of permit applications, a lobby group for the nation’s crane industry says.

In a message sent out to members of his organisation, Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA) chief executive officer Alan Marshal said the introduction of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) Accreditation Scheme on February 10 had been diabolical and that his organisation had received a massive volume of calls from members whose cranes were sitting idle and who had not received responses to permit applications.

 “The CICA office has received feedback from NSW, QLD, SA, and VIC that the permit process has stalled and cranes are sitting in yards or operating without permits,” Marshall wrote. “The fuse of tolerance has been burning away as the members count the days without reply to their permit applications.”

Marshall’s message follows a letter CICA wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss as well as state transport ministers reiterating the Council’s support for the concept of a national heavy vehicle regulator and accreditation scheme. He argued systems and programs needed for implementation were not ready and calling for previous systems to be reinstated and the new regime to be delayed in favour of a staged and systematic implementation of the new law.

Specifically, CICA complained that a Journey Planner designed to aid operators in understanding routes for compliant crane travel had not been available for public trial and that the industry had not had an opportunity to become familiar with how to use it.

Moreover, the Council said, local councils and shires were not adequately resourced or prepared to manage NHVR permits in a timely fashion. One survey taken a week before implementation showed 55 per cent of local councils that will receive permit applications were unaware of the February 10 ‘Go Live’ date.

Under rules designed to ensure safety of road users and protect local road and bridge infrastructure, the new system requires NHVR to secure council approval for heavy vehicle travel on local government roads prior to issuing a permit for entire journeys.

In his letter, Marshall acknowledged NHVR staff were working hard to get the new scheme up and running.

“However and respectfully, CICA would like to raise concerns on behalf of our combined crane industry membership that readiness for the required programs and systems for NHVR to implement a successful ‘Go Live’ on 10 February was flawed,” he wrote.

Outside the crane sector, other industry representatives have also raised concerns.

Australian Trucking Association chairman David Simon, for example, stressed his organisation’s overall support for a national scheme but spoke of ‘teething issues’, including concerns about the size of the new regulator’s budget (the majority of which will be paid for by the industry) as well as requirement for drivers to carry more paperwork.

In a statement last week, NHVR said it was working with industry bodies to address concerns and had implemented temporary measures such as allowing operators to obtain approval to travel on council road networks directly from councils themselves as opposed to going through NHVR as well as recognising previous approval to travel on council roads in order to ease immediate delays.

“We’ve spoken with frontline operators and industry associations,” NVHCR CEO Richard Hancock said. “We’ve heard that we need to do better and we’re moving quickly to respond to industry concerns.”