Nationwide transport regulations at last?

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has today agreed to microeconomic reforms that will streamline the regulations applying to the nation’s $46 billion transport sector. These long-overdue reforms have the potential to boost national income by as much as $2.4 billion a year.
COAG has endorsed:
  • The establishment of a single national heavy vehicle regulator with responsibility for regulating all vehicles over 4.5 gross tonnes, including inspection standards, safe driving hours, mass limits and registration;
  • The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) becoming the national regulator of all commercial vessels operating in Australian waters. At the moment ASMA only regulates interstate operations; and
  • The creation of a national rail safety regulatory system and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) becoming the preferred investigator of rail accidents. Currently Australia has seven rail safety regulators, three rail safety investigators and different rules in every state.
The governments of Australia are attempting to put in place a seamless national economy – a long-overdue outcome that would lift national productivity and allow transport operators to get products onto supermarkets shelves and our exports to market at the lowest cost.
For example, at the moment an interstate truck driver must comply with all the regulations that apply in each of the jurisdictions they drive through. Even small differences can create extra costs, red tape and confusion for the trucking industry, particularly for the many family operators.
Agreement on these reforms followed the finalisation of Regulatory Impact Statements and a recommendation from the nation’s transport ministers.
It is proposed that all reforms will be fully implemented by 2013.  Transitional arrangements will come into effect in 2011 for heavy vehicles, maritime, and rail.
Example: rail freight
The transport ministers have unanimously voted to approve a policy and process for regulators to recognise industry-developed rail safety standards as ‘good practice’.
The agreed mechanism will improve the take-up of national standards across the rail sector. Common standards reduce costs where freight moves between different rail operations in the supply chain. Previously, the rail industry had to ‘prove’ its standards were robust on a case-by-case basis.
“This is a great example of co-regulation working successfully in the rail industry,” said general manager – safety and environment, Tim Eaton.
The National Transport Commission developed the National Policy Statement for the Recognition of Industry Developed Standards for Rail Safety through consultation with industry, unions and rail safety regulators. The document is available for download here:
Rail safety is based on the principle of co-regulation where safety risks are managed by industry through accreditation, including the use of technical standards. In 2007, the Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board was established to develop national rail industry standards. Standards Australia owns 29 other rail standards.

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