State agencies around Australia are desperately trying to come to the rescue of a besieged national regulator for heavy vehicles as outstanding vehicle permit applications under a new regulatory framework for heavy vehicle regulation pile up and vehicle operator frustration boils over.
New temporary arrangements have seen transport authority officers from a number of states jump in to clear a developing backlog of applications following the introduction of the National Heavy Vehicle Law in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, which has seen regulatory oversight of vehicles of more than 4.5 tonnes in gross vehicle mass transferred to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NVHR).
In Queensland, the Department of Main Roads (TMR) is processing over-size or over-mass (OSOM) permits as well as special purpose vehicle (SPV) permits for mobile construction vehicles on NVHR’s behalf for trips which wholly take place within that state.
TMR staff are also processing applications lodged with the state body prior to the commencement of the new national law on February 10.
In other states, specialist permit officers from VicRoads, New South Wales Maritime Services (RMS) and the South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure have been rushed to NHVR’s national headquarters in Queensland’s Fortitude Valley in an effort to pump through applications at a faster rate.
Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to manage a flood of inquiries, the national regulator has raised its call centre staffing levels by more than half.
In a statement, NHVR said the new measures build upon existing temporary measures under which operators can speed up processing by approaching local councils directly to seek permission to travel on their roads and attaching the consent to permit application forms (the new rules require NHVR to acquire approval from local councils for individual operators to use local government roads before it can grant whole-of-trip permits), and are aimed at addressing urgent applications in the heavy haulage sector.
“The additional measures in place this week are particularly targeted at applications with urgent turn-around times, such as heavy haulage operators seeking over-size or over-mass permits (OSOM) or mobile construction vehicles that need special purpose vehicle (SPV) permits” the statement read.
“The permit process is new for many councils and the NHVR, together with all state road transport authorities, is exploring additional ways it can support these local government road managers with time-critical applications.”
Industry groups welcome the latest measures but remain concerned about the overall implementation of the new scheme.
In an email sent to members of his organisation, Crane Industry Council of Australia (CICA) president Alan Marshall acknowledged efforts on the part of NHVR and state regulators to resolve problems, but said the launch of the new system ‘has not gone well’ and it was ‘disappointing that the NHVR has not fulfilled its key platform promises’.
Though supportive of the overall concept of national regulation, CICA has consistently argued against its implementation should be delayed until local councils are adequately resourced and prepared and systems were in place for the new law to operate effectively.