Australia’s three biggest states have temporarily taken back control of the processing of heavy haulage vehicle permits for trips wholly within their states as the crisis surrounding permit applications for the new national regulatory scheme intensifies.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator announced that effective immediately, Roads and Maritime Services in New South Wales has agreed to temporarily process applications for over-size and over-mass vehicles (OSOM) and special purpose vehicles (SPV) under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme for travel which occurs wholly within that state.
This follows similar moves by transport authorities in Queensland and Victoria, which have seen Transport and Main Roads accept temporary authority to process OSOM and SPV applications for travel within Queensland and VicRoads accept similar authority in Victoria.
Operators will be able to contact these bodies directly in order to apply for permits.
The new arrangements do not apply, however, to either cross-border applications or to applications outside of OSOM/SPV applications, which will still be processed by NHVR.
Of particular concern is a lack of preparedness for the scheme amongst local councils, who must authorise travel on local government roads prior to the NHVR being able to approve an application for an entire journey.
NHVR chief executive officer Richard Hancock acknowledges concerns that such a requirement has been a source of delays but says such requirements are necessary to ensure public safety as well as to protect local infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
“I acknowledge that the national laws are a big change for everyone, particularly the strict requirement for local councils to give approval for heavy vehicles to travel on local roads before permits for the whole journey can be issued,” Hancock said. “For many councils and operators, this is the first time this has been required and the change is substantial.”
“This requirement is for the safety of all road users. For example, if a heavy vehicle driver is towing a wide, heavy load such as a bulldozer, it may be wider than a single lane and sometimes encroach on an oncoming lane.”
The latest moves come as NHVR is encouraging heavy vehicle operators to seek direct consent from councils regarding access to local roads and provide copies of such consent with a copy of their completed application in order to speed up approval times - though the regulator stresses this remains optional and operators are still able to use the standard consent process under which NHVR manages the consent request on their behalf.
NHVR also says it is beefing up the number of staff within its call centre and seeking help from specialist officers in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland state road transport authorities who have local knowledge and good working relationships with local operators.