The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has given a glimpse into its future approach to fatigue management and meeting the ongoing challenges around the permit process for access networks at the VTA State Conference.
In a keynote address Monday, the NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said a new approach to risk management was currently underway in consultation with the industry.
“The latest evidence we’re starting to see really needs to look at those issues around quality not just the quantities,” said Petroccitto.
“A lot of factors impact on the individual that might be driving their truck and also the working environments and conditions play a key role.”
Petroccitto recognised a modern approach would be required to tackle the issues around driver hours as the current system in place had proven flawed for many road transport operators.
“In some cases the current fatigue laws when operators are compliant are unsafe and when you’re non compliant you’re actually safe,” he said.
“We need to shift that focus of counting hours with providing you, as an industry, the flexibility that your drivers need so they can rest when they are tired and not when someone tells them to do so,” said Petroccitto.
“Obviously that needs to be done within those hour limits. None of you are asking for more hours. You’re just asking for that flexibility within those hours.”
Technology would, as it does now, play a vital role in the way the regulator recognised and utilised fatigue detection technology.
Petrocitto was hopeful he had the ear of policymakers when it came to implementing improvements to the current approaches.
A strong commitment, according to Petroccitto, was needed to challenge the current approaches and the reform of what was an onerous and unworkable system when it came to providing access permits.
“I know that we normally cop the brunt of a lot of complaints. As I’ve said many times before we facilitate access. Our ability to control what a road manager does and doesn’t do is as limited as yours,” he said.
“What we both can agree on is the current system has to be fixed because it is not sustainable,” said Petroccitto.
At present some 150,000 permit applications will be processed through the NHVR office this year alone.
That amounts to around 12,000 a month.
“Analysis tells us that 94 per cent of those applications get approved,” said Petroccitto.
On that front he was dedicated to putting forth an approach involving operators and the NHVR working together on a national reform of which the outcome would assist in overcoming the access and productivity challenges that stakeholders and industry face daily.
Networks would open up, under this model, based on knowing and understanding the infrastructure capacity while identifying clear no-go zones that are supported with an investment approach.
“There’s no point having an HVNL network full of red dots if no one can get through those red dots,” Petroccitto said.
The formal adoption of the NHVR’s strategic local government asset assessment program and its national spacial mapping work, together with additional funding from the federal government, were cited by Petroccitto as a way forward.
“Now in its third year that project is actually assisting local government road managers understand the condition of their bridges,” he said.
“They can make those informed decisions.
Close to 400 assessments had taken place across local government areas with Round 2 set to commence shortly.
It was likely to include another 1000 assessments.
To date, there was 24,000 assets operating on local government networks.
“What we need to do is look at those critical assets on those critical freight routes and really get a genuine understanding of the condition to allow local governments to make those informed decisions to keep you productive,” said Petroccitto.
“We are dedicated to working with those road managers to improve the system that opens up those productive networks.”
The information collated through the management of the local government asset program feeds into the NHVR’s single national spacial access map and enforceable heavy vehicle network map on one central repository.
“The mapping system will have google-based functionality [and] will really allow industry and road managers to better plan their journeys and manage access conditions en route and will contain critical physical infrastructure information as well,” said Petroccitto.
Dynamic routing on the map will enable industry to enter the vehicle dimensions and systems will automatically snap them to a preferred group and identify if further assessments are required.
The system will be built upon the work that has already been done in Tasmania. At a state level Tasmania will be expanded to a national system to ensure it works across all the jurisdictions the NHVR work with.
Achieving that national consistency was one of the largest hurdles for the NHVR but it was well underway despite the immensity of the challenges inherent in a national reform project.
By the middle of 2022 the NHVR projects it will have transferred the NSW services for heavy vehicle compliance over to it.
That will see the NHVR almost double in size.
It will, according to Petroccitto, bring with it more complexities and also more capabilities. That program has been three years in the making.
The reform agenda, Petrocitto maintained, was right and too important to give up on.
“We have to embrace reform in a faster and more productive manner if we are to remain truly competitive,” he said.
“We know when we do transition one of the greatest benefits for the industry will come in that consistent risk-based regulatory functions that we undertake.”
What Petroccitto called the ‘inform, educate and enforce’ approach was proving effective as the NHVR began to shift away from heavy handed on-road compliance activity to a focus geared around engagement.
He denied, however, that the change in focus would bring about a softer regulator.
“We’re still using the powers that we have when we need to,” said Petroccitto.
“But our view is if we don’t bring you along the journey with a consultative and educative process we’re not really changing the agenda.”
The accumulation of data, for instance, was pointless if the regulator had no way of using it as part of the education process.
“We’re looking at how we can start to share that information and we want to share that information back with you. This way we believe that you can manage your safety in a more timely manner,” Petroccitto said.
In the coming weeks the NHVR will begin a trial with several road freight operators who will be given access to company compliance information through the portal. If that proves successful the intent is for the NHVR to share more information it has captured with industry.
Petroccitto is hopeful it will deliver more functionality for heavy vehicle operators by facilitating a greater responsibility that will in turn lead to a proactive application of how they manage their fleet.
In this way the NHVR will get to use some of the other regulatory provisions it has in its toolkit.
“We’re considered quite unique because we’re both a productivity and safety regulator,” continued Petroccitto.
“I fundamentally believe the two are critical and need to go hand in hand. The more productive a business is the more it can invest in safety,” he said.
“The safer a business is the more productive it can be.”