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National transport regulatory reform

Inquiry report

Released 01 / 10 / 2020

The Australian Government asked the Productivity Commission to assess the economic impact of reforms to transport regulation agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2008-09. Those reforms relate to heavy vehicle safety and productivity, rail safety and maritime safety.

The Government also asked the Commission to recommend further reforms towards a more integrated national market for transport services.

This report was sent to Government on 7 April 2020 and publicly released on 1 October 2020.

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  • Key points
  • Contents
  • Supporting data
  • COAG’s harmonisation reforms established national laws and national regulators for heavy vehicles, rail, and domestic commercial vessels.
  • After almost a decade, the transition is nearly complete, albeit with some unfinished business:
    • Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not participate in the national heavy vehicle regime
    • unnecessary derogations from the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and Rail Safety National Law (RSNL) continue
    • some grandfathering provisions applying to domestic commercial vessels pose safety risks
    • approval processes for heavy vehicle access to local roads still lag in some areas.
  • By most measures, heavy vehicle and rail safety continue to improve, largely due to new technology and infrastructure investments.
  • Safety regulation across the three modes is a mix of prescriptive and outcomes based regulation. Amending safety regulation to create a more flexible, outcomes-based approach should improve safety and lift productivity.
  • The COAG reforms were expected to unlock large efficiency gains for heavy vehicle operators. While gains have been made, the forecasts were optimistic and have not been achieved.
    • Road access for larger, more efficient trucks has improved, but significant bottlenecks remain on some major freight corridors.
  • There are significant opportunities for COAG, regulators and industry to further promote safety and productivity.

    Striking a balance between prescription and outcomes-based approaches in safety regulation:

    • amending the HVNL to allow further progress to a tiered system, where operators can choose to follow prescriptive regulation or to develop more flexible and efficient ways to manage safety risks with the regulator’s approval
    • removing unnecessary prescriptive detail from the HVNL.

    Emphasising risk-based approaches to improving safety and consistency:

    • removing unjustified derogations (road and rail) and grandfathering (maritime)
    • ensuring effective oversight of Hire and Drive vessels in the maritime sector
    • streamlining Australian Design Rule processes for heavy vehicles.

    Improving infrastructure provision and management:

    • progressing Heavy Vehicle Road Reform
    • ensuring that investment decisions on major freight corridors are based on transparent cost-benefit analysis, which includes consideration of intermodal options
    • encouraging more ‘as-of-right’ access for vehicles (where appropriate) and more efficient processes for assessing permit applications
    • creating more consistent network rules for rail services.

    Improving the evidence base for policy and regulatory decisions:

    • establishing ‘no-blame’ incident investigation across the transport modes
    • harnessing telematics data to inform infrastructure investment and access management
    • ensuring that regulators improve their collection, analysis, and reporting of data, particularly in relation to safety outcomes and compliance costs.
  • Cover, Copyright and publication detail, Letter of transmittal, Terms of reference, Acknowledgments, Contents and Abbreviations.
  • Key points
  • Overview
  • Findings and recommendations
  • Chapter 1 About this inquiry
    • 1.1 National transport regulatory reform
    • 1.2 What was the Commission asked to do?
    • 1.3 What does the transport sector look like?
    • 1.4 The Commission’s approach
  • Chapter 2 Assessing transport safety regulation
    • 2.1 A framework for transport safety regulation
    • 2.2 A ‘tiered’ model of transport safety regulation
  • Chapter 3 Harmonising transport regulation
    • 3.1 History of transport regulation
    • 3.2 The 2009 COAG national transport reforms
  • Chapter 4 Is transport safety regulation nationally consistent?
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 The harmonisation task in transport
    • 4.3 Moving towards national regulation
    • 4.4 How ‘national’ are the national laws?
    • 4.5 National consistency of application and enforcement
  • Chapter 5 Assessing the national regulators
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator
    • 5.3 The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator
    • 5.4 The Australian Maritime Safety Authority
  • Chapter 6 Has harmonisation of transport regulation improved safety?
    • 6.1 Introduction
    • 6.2 Heavy vehicle transport safety
    • 6.3 Rail transport safety
    • 6.4 Domestic commercial vessel transport safety
  • Chapter 7 Have the COAG reforms raised productivity?
    • 7.1 Introduction
    • 7.2 Compliance costs and regulatory burden
    • 7.3 Administrative costs
    • 7.4 Access management of heavy vehicles
    • 7.5 Examining changes in heavy vehicle productivity
    • 7.6 Improving heavy vehicle access
  • Chapter 8 Transport technology and data
    • 8.1 Transport technologies
    • 8.2 Transport data
    • 8.3 Automation
  • Chapter 9 Further reforms to improve transport safety
    • 9.1 Introduction
    • 9.2 Evolution of transport safety regulation
    • 9.3 Safer freight routes, vehicles, and equipment
    • 9.4 Harnessing data to improve safety
    • 9.5 Improving incident investigation
  • Chapter 10 Further reforms to improve transport productivity
    • 10.1 Introduction
    • 10.2 Driving productivity through safety regulation
    • 10.3 Improving infrastructure provision and management
    • 10.4 Heavy vehicle access management
    • 10.5 Harnessing data and technology to improve productivity
  • Appendix A Public consultation
  • Appendix B Analysing transport safety outcomes and heavy vehicle productivity
  • References

This spreadsheet contains data underlying charts in the Productivity Commission's inquiry report on National Transport Regulatory Reform. Data underlying maps are not included.

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