Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law slides smoothly into first gear

By Michael Sheng, Shane Bosma, David Morgans, Ashurst in Brisbane
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The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) commenced on 10 February 2014 in most jurisdictions in Australia. Following commencement, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is the “one-stop shop” for regulatory services such as access permits or internal reviews of access decision making.

The harmonisation achieved through the HVNL is expected to have numerous benefits for industry participants. The HVNL penalties framework is still undergoing a formal review, and formal submissions closed on 14 February 2014.

 盛冕 Michael Sheng 亚司特国际律师事务所 上海代表处 合伙人 Partner Ashurst Shanghai

Michael Sheng

The new law

The HVNL – available from the host jurisdiction, the state of Queensland – and the Heavy Vehicle Regulations commenced in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania on 10 February 2014. The HVNL will commence in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory at a later date. At this stage, the HVNL will not be coming into force in Western Australia.

The HVNL applies to all vehicles with a gross vehicle mass or aggregate trailer mass exceeding 4.5 tonnes. All permits already in force at the commencement of the HVNL will remain current for the same routes, and with the same conditions, until expiry or until replaced under the national access framework, whichever comes first.

Rationale for HVNL’s adoption

It had previously been identified, at an intergovernmental level, that the establishment of national systems for improving safety and reducing costs, and the regulatory burden for Australian transport companies, should be a competition reform priority.

With this in mind, the Australian federal government and the state and territory governments, as well as industry and other stakeholders, developed the HVNL to deliver a comprehensive range of services under a consistent regulatory framework.

 Shane Bosma 亚司特国际律师事务所 布里斯班办公室 特别顾问 Special Counsel Ashurst Brisbane

Shane Bosma
Special Counsel

National Heavy Vehicle Regulator

The first step in delivering the HVNL was the establishment of the NHVR under a 2011 intergovernmental agreement. With the commencement of the HVNL, the NHVR has transitioned from its role managing the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme, the Performance-Based Standards Scheme and national vehicle approvals, to being the sole administrator of the HVNL.

Following this transition, the NHVR is the “one-stop shop” for all regulatory services under the HVNL, including:

  • the issuance of access permits and exemptions;
  • the administration of performance-based standards for vehicle design and the national heavy vehicle accreditation scheme;
  • work and rest hours;
  • work diary exemptions and vehicle standards exemptions; and
  • overseeing consistent compliance and enforcement of the HVNL by the various jurisdictions.

HVNL benefits for stakeholders

There are a number of benefits that we expect to crystallise for industry following commencement of the HVNL, including:

  • a single point of contact for all heavy vehicle regulation (i.e. the NHVR);
  • for the majority of interstate operators, there will only be one suite of legislation to comply with;
  • the ability to apply for one permit for carriage across different states and territories; and
  • the uniform interpretation of vehicle standards through the national guidelines.

While on a practical level, stakeholders in the industry will appreciate the simplification of needing only the one permit for interstate carriage, it is our consideration that a key benefit resulting from the commencement of the HVNL, and from sole administration by the NHVR, will be uniform interpretation of the application of the HVNL.

This is because a consistent interpretation will be of significant benefit in the context of the very broad chain of responsibility provisions of the HVNL (which, as did much state and territory transport legislation, extends liability for breaches of road transport laws to potentially all parties in a supply chain).

The penalties

The HVNL includes a national penalties framework that harmonises the approach to penalties across the states and territories by providing for a single set of national penalties that will apply to regulated parties, regardless of where they are located.

Considering the significant divergences in the approaches to offences and penalties between the states and territories – for example, the contravention of a standard carried a penalty of A$800 (US$720) in one state and $2,500 in another – support from the states and territories for the HVNL was predicated on a formal review of the penalties framework being undertaken.

To this end, the National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a consultation draft of the HVNL Penalties Framework Review (which is available from the NTC).

While initial discussions in relation to the monetary penalties involved both government and industry representatives, the HVNL Penalties Framework Review affords stakeholders the opportunity to make targeted, incremental improvements to further enhance the current framework.

Formal submissions to the NTC on the penalties framework closed on 14 February 2014. These submissions will inform the NTC’s final report on the HVNL penalties framework, which is to be provided to the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure in May 2014.

What you need to do

  • New access permits required on or after commencement of the HVNL will need to be obtained from the NHVR.
  • Monitor the release of the HVNL penalties framework by the NTC, anticipated for May 2014.




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