About NTC / News / E-Newsletter / August 2014

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NTC News, August 2014

In this edition:

Launch of our new website
New dangerous goods code released
Message from the Chief Executive - recent ministerial decisions 


Launch of our new website

In response to feedback from users, we have recently completely overhauled our website with many new features that will help you find the information you need more easily.

These include:

  • an advanced search function that will help you find our reports, guidelines and relevant legislation much more quickly
  • a responsive design to make it easier to access information from your smartphones or tablet, so you can find what you need no matter where you are
  • the ability for you to subscribe to our news and choose only to receive the information you are interested in
  • a better submissions process that makes it easier for you to give your input to our work.

The website also features a new design that reduces clutter and allows you to find the information you are looking for by mode of transport, the topic you’re interested in, or by using our advanced search to find something specific.

The site redesign is based on feedback from extensive consultation with website users about what they want from our site, including transport operators, drivers and those working in government.

We hope that you will enjoy using our new website and that it will provide a valuable resource to you in your work.

If you have any feedback about our new website please let us know by answering some quick questions in this survey.

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New dangerous goods code released

The NTC recently released the latest version of the Australian Dangerous Goods Code, providing an updated technical resource designed to keep the transport industry and the public safe.

Please ensure that you are using the latest version of the code (Edition 7.3 - August 2014) which is available to download.

CEO of the NTC Paul Retter said the edition 7.3 of the code would be of particular interest to heavy vehicle drivers, companies that use and transport dangerous goods and those who provide training on how to move dangerous goods safely.

“Everyone who uses Australia’s roads and other transport networks has a responsibility to keep themselves and the travelling public safe,” Mr Retter said.

“This code will help people transporting dangerous goods comply with the laws that are designed to keep them from harm.”

Mr Retter said it was very important that people reading the code read it in conjunction with the specific dangerous goods legislation that applies to their state or territory.

“While this is an incremental upgrade rather than a complete revision of the code I encourage everyone involved in transporting dangerous goods to look at this new edition and the laws in their state and refresh their knowledge,” Mr Retter said.

He said the code had been updated to reflect the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods Model Regulations (17th edition) and new amendments include:

  • Better clarifying the description of a dangerous good
  • Adding new materials to the list of dangerous goods
  • Requiring minimum sized markings on large packages of dangerous goods
  • Providing clearer requirements on how and where transport documents are kept on a vehicle transporting dangerous goods
  • And many others.

He said the new amendments also better aligned Australia’s dangerous good requirements with those in place overseas.

“This edition is good news for Australia’s importers and exporters as Australia’s dangerous goods requirements are now much more in line with those overseas. This cuts red tape and gives them much greater certainty,” Mr Retter said.

“I would like to thank the transport industry, dangerous goods experts, safety experts and government authorities who provided their know-how to help us provide this useful technical resource.”

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Message from the Chief Executive - recent ministerial decisions 

The National Transport Commission is often asked how our different projects relate to each other and help to create a safer and more productive transport network, and cut red tape. Our projects don’t just solve individual problems in isolation, they are complementary, interconnected and consistent pieces of reform that help to create a more efficient economy.

Earlier this year Australia’s transport ministers approved a package of projects undertaken by the NTC that will help Australia’s transport industry get their goods to market and reduce crashes on our transport networks.

Compliance framework for heavy vehicle telematics

As part of that package ministers have approved a compliance framework for the use of heavy vehicle telematics.  This sets out practical ways to use on-board technology to handle many problems affecting the heavy vehicle industry from speed and fatigue management, fleet management, to managing an operator’s payroll system.

The new framework includes ways of protecting private data, making government policies and processes available to the public and setting standards to help protect drivers from incorrect information and potentially false breaches of existing transport laws.

Importantly, telematics will play an increasing role in reducing fatigue-related accidents and reduce the regulatory burden on the transport industry at the same time. Unfortunately, fatigue is a factor in 11.9 per cent of serious incidents and at the moment someone is killed in crashes involving heavy trucks or buses every two days, even though most operators and drivers take their own safety and the safety of other road users very seriously.

Electronic Work Diaries

In particular, an already popular form of telematics, Electronic Work Diaries (EWDs), would become an even better option for people who wanted to use them with new rules to make sure drivers will not be unfairly penalised.

For example, truck drivers who choose to use an EWD instead of a paper based diary won’t be fined for small, low-risk breaches of less than eight minutes. This new eight minute rule will not apply to rest time and drivers will have a total of eight minutes across a 24 hour period, starting from a major rest break. This means a driver who exceeds work time by five minutes in the first period of work may only exceed work time by up to three minutes for the rest of that 24-hour period, unless the driver makes up for the five minutes at a later time in that day.  This is intended to make it impractical to deliberately schedule the additional eight minutes as work time.

These new rules mean that drivers who inadvertently go a few minutes over time between breaks won’t be penalised for these small, low-risk breaches, and will allow authorities to focus their attention on those people who systematically flaunt the laws that are meant to keep all road users safe.

Drivers who choose to use an EWD will also spend less time filling in paperwork as the EWD will automatically record how they are keeping safe by complying with things like work and rest rules, and will not have to record time in 15 minute blocks.

Now that ministers have endorsed the NTC’s work so far, the next step is for us to work with NHVR, road authorities and industry to plan for a phased implementation of EWDs on a voluntary basis once the regulatory amendments take affect within the heavy vehicle national law.

Penalties review

As part of the NTC’s agenda to reduce the regulatory burden on truck drivers, the NTC has recommended more consistent penalties under the Heavy Vehicle National Law. These incremental changes will make sure truck drivers are treated more fairly by appropriately punishing those responsible for systematic breaches of the road rules.

The NTC’s Heavy Vehicle National Law penalties framework review recommended penalties for eight offences be increased, and penalties for one offence decrease in order to make them more consistent. Ministers have agreed to these proposed changes in penalties and NTC is now preparing draft laws to be presented to ministers in November 2014.

Chain of responsibility

An independent taskforce spent over 12 months reviewing the operation of the chain of responsibility laws to ensure that they are effective and fair so that anyone in the supply chain whose actions put other people’s lives at risk can be held accountable.

The review found that the laws are working well, but there could be some improvements, including:

  •         more effort into informing, advising and educating all relevant parties about their responsibilities under the chain of responsibility rules
  •         reviewing duties in light of opportunities to improve the chain of responsibility regime
  •         ensuring all parties influencing on-road behaviours were covered, and
  •         ensuring that executive officer liability provisions  are consistent with the COAG principles.

The NTC is now examining these potential areas for improvement in chain of responsibility policy settings and legislation.

Australian Vehicle Standards Rules

In another move to create better consistency and clarity, the rules that apply to Australian vehicle standards have also been updated with ministers approving the 8th amendment package of the Australian Vehicle Standards Rules (AVSRs), developed by the NTC.

In particular, the amendments better align the AVSRs with the new Heavy Vehicle National Regulations and make them clearer.

For example the changes will prevent people getting around excessive noise rules with adjustable mufflers and the like, by setting standards that test the maximum noise a vehicle can make, rather than the minimum noise they might make.

The NTC also recommended changes to clarify that particular push bikes with motors or power assisted pedal cycles are not subject to AVSR penalties – avoiding unnecessary restrictions for riders. These and many other changes ensure that the AVSRs, established in 1999, reflect the community’s current needs and road safety expectations.

Heavy vehicle roadworthiness program

One major area where the NTC has been working hard to improve road safety is through the Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness Program, which is a joint project with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) in response to concerns following a fatal fuel tanker crash in NSW in October last year.

The two organisations have completed the first phase of the project which examines current maintenance practices across the industry as a useful start from which to examine ways to improve heavy vehicle roadworthiness. The second phase will build on this by identifying and inviting public submissions on opportunities to improve the national heavy vehicle roadworthiness system.

At their recent meeting, transport ministers also directed the NTC to consider the best way of applying Chain of Responsibility laws to those responsible for the roadworthiness of heavy vehicles.

The NTC and the NHVR will present draft recommendations to the next meeting of transport ministers scheduled in November.

One tonne mass transfer

On the productivity front there has been good progress with an amendment to national regulations to allow up to one tonne of a load to be transferred from single or tandem axle groups, to a tri-axle group, on general mass limits heavy vehicles.

This will save operators time and money and, importantly, will slightly reduce the wear and tear on our roads. When they were established in 1993, the original nationally-agreed mass loading laws set the total weight allowed for a heavy vehicle as the sum of the maximum masses allowed on each of the truck’s axle groups.

This meant that for a truck to be able to carry the maximum legal load, that load must be perfectly distributed across all axle groups. In practical terms the margin of error for container loads was a few millimetres and people transporting mixed loads faced a difficult three-dimensional puzzle to get it right.

Unfortunately, drivers who were under the total mass limit were still liable for fines if the mass or any of the truck’s axle groups exceeded the prescribed limit, even though their loads did less damage to our roads.

Under the new amendment the amount of freight each truck can carry will not increase. However, the new rules allow a bit more flexibility - one tonne - in the mass limits on axles to make the law practical and fair. While they still need to take care to ensure their vehicles are correctly and safely loaded within the limits, the task is now not as hard.

While these new laws will not help every driver they are a common-sense way to increase productivity of many heavy vehicles on our nation’s roads.

Future projects

Looking at the future of heavy vehicle productivity, the NTC has released a package of new productivity boosting projects as part of its Strategic Plan and Work Program. This package of work looks at ways to enable goods to be transported more efficiently and at less cost, with compromising safety or the environment.

For example, productivity gains could be found by looking at the current constraints on a heavy vehicle’s volume, rather than continually looking at issues revolving around its mass.

Right now at least 45 per cent of Australian trucks are constrained by their volume, rather than their weight.  Helping these vehicles overcome some of these limits could dramatically increase their productivity.

The NTC’s new Work Program includes a range of projects to improve access for higher-productivity vehicles proven to deliver efficiency benefits without comprising safety. Under the Performance Based Standards (PBS) scheme, 6 and 7 axle truck-trailer combinations can operate with up to 20 per cent higher payloads than their non-PBS equivalents.

Given this, the NTC is investigating the feasibility of streamlining the process of allowing these combinations to use the increased mass limits offered under the PBS scheme without having to go through the PBS application process.

PBS-compliant truck-trailer combinations can operate with up to 20 per cent higher payloads than their non-PBS equivalents. The NTC believes that making these higher productivity vehicles more accessible would potentially allow a greater number of operators to take advantage of these benefits.

The work program also details some longer-term reform directions identified in consultation with governments and industry, including:

  • exploring how Australia can best prepare for the introduction of autonomous road and rail vehicles
  • collecting better data about freight movements to inform future planning, investment and access decisions by governments, and
  • exploring how to collect better data about the impact of heavy vehicle driver fatigue and to better understand the costs of complying with regulation for the land transport industry.

These future projects have been developed with industry and government partners and may help to improve productivity, safety and cut red tape across Australia’s transport networks.

Paul Retter AM

Chief Executive and Commissioner

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Last Updated: 20/12/2016