Tue, 26 Apr 2016 - 21:00
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Vehicle standards changes a boost for trucking industry

It may not be immediately obvious from the job title “Minister for Major Projects”, but one task that falls to me is overseeing the federal government’s role in regulating the design of motor vehicles in Australia.

Explanation: I am one of the two Ministers in the Infrastructure portfolio (which really means ‘Transport’) in the Australian Government, with the responsibilities divided up between Darren Chester who is Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and me as Minister for Major Projects. 

One of my responsibilities is the Motor Vehicle Standards Act.  This sets out the rules a car, truck, bus, motorcycle or other kind of vehicle must meet to be allowed on a public road in Australia.  (Just to make it a bit more complicated, the state and territory governments regulate continuing compliance with these rules – the Commonwealth concentrates on whether the vehicle is compliant when it is first imported, or manufactured.) 

This is an area of regulation which affects millions of Australians.  Obviously the safety implications are profound. So too are the economic implications. 

There are clear opportunities to reduce costs – while maintaining or even increasing safety – in this area, particularly by aligning the rules more closely with those applying internationally.  When most of our vehicles are imports, this makes good sense.

Of course driving in Australia can present some unique challenges.  Frequently this is used as a justification for differing from international standards.  On investigation, though, quite often the justification does not stack up.

I have approved a couple of changes to the rules recently which will deliver material savings to the trucking industry.

For example, one of these changes will remove a requirement that the rear bumper of semi-trailers must be painted white.  This requirement added extra cost – for no particular safety benefit. 

Removing this rule will save the industry $12.4 million over ten years – by removing an unnecessary step in the production process for the 4,500 semi-trailers manufactured in Australia annually. 

I also approved some changes set to commence in the coming weeks which will make life simpler for the manufacturers of heavy trailers. 

Until now, the federal government has used one set of rules to approve new vehicles; but once a vehicles is in use it has been regulated by another set of rules (because once vehicles are in use the state and territory governments and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) are responsible for their ongoing compliance and roadworthiness.)  Previously, the rules for new vehicles used by the federal government were more restrictive than those rules used by the NHVR.  This resulted in trailer manufacturers often having to undergo additional approvals for their vehicles prior to sale.  The changes I have just approved remove this unnecessary red-tape process.

These changes were requested by the trucking industry. They are supported by state and territory governments.  They involve no reduction in the safety or environmental performance of Australia's heavy vehicle fleet.  But they save money – and increase productivity.

This is not the kind of stuff that makes headlines – but it delivers tangible productivity benefits by reducing unnecessary regulation.  This is exactly what government should be doing – and I am pleased to be playing my part.