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National Transport Regulatory Reform

Draft report

This draft report was released on 12 November 2019.

You were invited to examine the draft report and to make written submissions by 15 January 2020.

The final inquiry report is to be handed to the Australian Government by April 2020.

The release of the final report by the Government is the final step in the process.

Under the Productivity Commission Act 1998, the Government is required to table the report in each House of the Parliament within 25 sitting days of receipt.

Download the overview

Download the draft report

Appendix B Analysing transport safety outcomes and heavy vehicle productivity

  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents
  • COAG’s reforms established national laws and regulators for heavy vehicles, rail, and domestic commercial vessels. After eight years, the transition is nearly complete.
  • Reform has delivered more consistent regulation across most jurisdictions and is likely to have reduced compliance costs for some operators. Reform has lifted productivity by improving road access for larger, more efficient trucks.
  • Unfinished business remains:
    • Western Australia and the Northern Territory do not participate in the national heavy vehicle regime
    • the national regulators have yet to assume full responsibility for enforcement
    • derogations from the national heavy vehicle and rail laws in some jurisdictions create unjustifiable compliance burdens for businesses
    • some grandfathering of domestic commercial vessels poses a risk to safety
    • approval processes for access to local roads can still be inconsistent, slow and lack transparency.
  • Reform was expected to unlock large efficiency gains for heavy vehicle operators. While gains have been made, these forecasts were optimistic and have not been achieved.
  • By most measures, safety has continued to improve since 2011. At present, it is unlikely that the recent reforms have contributed to additional improvement to safety outcomes.
  • There are significant opportunities for COAG, regulators and industry to further improve productivity and safety.
  • A new COAG agenda for the three sectors should build on the regulatory reforms by:
    • accelerating reform of infrastructure planning and management, including the Heavy Vehicle Road Reform agenda and trials of road user charging
    • removing unjustified derogations and grandfathering, using risk based assessments of the evidence
    • strengthening the safety culture of industry through education and regulatory incentives for capable businesses to switch from ‘tick the box’ compliance to accredited, risk based safety management systems
    • realising the full potential of new data technologies to improve safety and productivity
    • removing regulatory barriers — such as some Australian Design Rules — to the early adoption of new technologies which can lift productivity and improve safety.

Media requests

Leonora Nicol, Media Director – 0417 665 443 / 02 6240 3239 /

Transport reforms — On the right track but running late

Reform in the transport sector has been disappointingly slow and has not delivered the expected productivity gains, according to a draft report released today by the Productivity Commission.

"After eight years, we have largely achieved national consistency in the safety regulation of heavy vehicles, boats and trains but there is still much more to be done."

"Creating national regulators and laws was ambitious and has taken longer than anticipated," Productivity Commissioner Paul Lindwall said.

"The pace of reform has picked up recently but more action is needed to deliver the expected safety and productivity gains," Paul Lindwall said.

The gains from reform are modest with the main benefits likely to be lower compliance costs for businesses and a lift in heavy vehicle productivity from improving access to local roads.

Regulatory reform has not come at the expense of safety — safety outcomes continue to improve in the road and rail sectors. Fatalities in the rail sector have fallen by 50 per cent over the past ten years. Crash rates for heavy vehicles continue their long-term decline.

National consistency is useful but it is more important to have fit-for-purpose regulation. The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is inflexible, encouraging an old-fashioned ‘tick the box’ attitude to safety rather than innovative risk management. The Commission supports moves to make the HVNL less prescriptive and more focused on results than rules.

New safety standards are not being consistently rolled-out for domestic commercial vessels. The Commission is inviting views on changing the grandfathering provisions that exempt some vessels from the national law. It also doubts that small for-hire vessels (such as tinnies and kayaks) need to be regulated by the national regulator rather than state agencies responsible for water safety.

Moving to national regulation should be seen as one practical step towards improving safety and productivity. But more efficient trucks and use of the road network are key to containing costs and congestion, with road freight expected to grow by about 50 percent over the next 20 years.

"Achieving the productivity gains predicted in 2011 will require much more than regulatory reform of safety. Governments need to continue and, in some cases accelerate, broader reforms to infrastructure investment, its use and management, and pricing of access," Paul Lindwall said.

Governments and industry also need to reap the benefits of technologies such as telematics. These offer exciting opportunities to improve safety and lift productivity. Governments will have an important role in facilitating data collection and sharing across governments and industry.

The draft report is available at and open for comment until 15 January 2020.

  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright, Opportunity for further comment, Terms of reference, Contents and Acknowledgements
  • Overview
    • Key points
    • Background
    • Implementation and progress
    • Have the objectives been achieved?
    • Further action is required
    • A forward-looking policy agenda for transport
  • Draft findings and recommendations

Part I — Introduction

  • 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
    • 1.5 A guide to the rest of the report
  • Chapter 2 Approaches to safety regulation
    • 2.1 Safety in the transport sector
    • 2.2 The role of governments in ensuring safety
    • 2.3 Principles of effective regulation
  • Chapter 3 Harmonising transport regulation
    • 3.1 History of transport regulation
    • 3.2 The 2009 COAG national transport reforms

Part II — Assessment of the COAG reforms

  • Chapter 4 Do we have nationally consistent regulatory regimes?
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 The harmonisation task in transport
    • 4.3 Implementing national laws and the creation of national regulators
    • 4.4 How ‘national’ are the national laws?
    • 4.5 National consistency of application and operation
    • 4.6 Pursuing further consistency
  • Chapter 5 Has harmonisation of transport regulation improved safety?
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 Has heavy vehicle transport become safer?
    • 5.3 Is rail transport becoming safer?
    • 5.4 Are domestic commercial vessels becoming safer?
    • 5.5 Workplace safety in heavy vehicle, rail and maritime transport
  • Chapter 6 Have the COAG reforms raised productivity?
    • 6.1 Introduction
    • 6.2 Access management for heavy vehicles
    • 6.3 Assessing the impact on heavy vehicle access
    • 6.4 Compliance costs and regulatory burden
    • 6.5 Administrative costs
    • 6.6 Summary assessment
  • Chapter 7 Assessing the national regulators
    • 7.1 Introduction
    • 7.2 The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator
    • 7.3 The Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator
    • 7.4 The Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Part III — Opportunities for further reform

  • Chapter 8 Transport technology and data
    • 8.1 Transport technologies
    • 8.2 Transport data
    • 8.3 Automation
  • Chapter 9 A reform agenda for safer transport
    • 9.1 Introduction
    • 9.2 Evolution of transport safety regulation
    • 9.3 Market dynamics and safety
    • 9.4 Harnessing data and technology to improve safety
    • 9.5 Aligning regulatory regimes to improve safety
    • 9.6 Heavy vehicle driver skills
    • 9.7 Improving incident investigation
  • Chapter 10 A reform agenda for transport productivity
    • 10.1 Introduction
    • 10.2 Heavy vehicle access management
    • 10.3 Road infrastructure provision
    • 10.4 Ensuring intermodal competitiveness
    • 10.5 Harnessing data and technology to improve productivity
    • 10.6 Institutional frameworks to drive productivity
  • Appendix A Public consultation
  • Appendix B Analysing transport safety outcomes and heavy vehicle productivity (online only)
  • References

Printed copies

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

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