Skip to Content

National Transport Regulatory Reform

Inquiry report

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

Download the overview

Download the report

  • 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.

Media requests

Leonora Nicol, Media Director – 0417 665 443 / 02 6240 3239 / media@pc.gov.au

  • 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.

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

Publications feedback

We value your comments about this publication and encourage you to provide feedback.

Submit publications feedback