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Queensland based  truck Industry body the HVIA  has waded into the already muddied waters of the national heavy vehicle safety reforms,  criticising the discussion paper released this week by the NHVR, saying the paper “explores options for implementing the Safer Freight Vehicle (SFV) reforms, which are yet to be finalised at the Federal level”.

HVIA’s chief technical officer, Adam Ritzinger called  the NHVR’s discussion paper  “an odd move that is likely to cause confusion within the industry”.

“Naturally, there is enormous interest within our membership regarding these reforms,” Ritzinger said.

“Up until now, the big question has been when an announcement will be made by Ministers; in that sense, the release of the NHVR’s implementation plan has confusingly put the cart before the horse,” he said.

“Yet despite that, a greater concern is that the NHVR has considered implementation of wider trailers, which needs further detailed impact assessment before any decision can be made,” he added.

HVIA says its position on truck and trailer width has been clear since 2019, and  says it  has been strongly articulated to all levels of government saying that any changes to regulations must apply a ‘no disadvantage’ test for Australian industry.

The Association said in its statement that current limits to truck width can restrict model availability and add costs to the industry  and that it supports increasing truck width to 2.55 metres, with axle mass limit increases.

However  it says that current limits to trailer width do not limit model availability, nor add cost to the industry, and are not a productivity impediment  and therefore, it does not support blanket increases to trailer width.

“In the past, HVIA has called for a RIS (regulatory impact statement) that segments the trailer market, and evaluates the impacts on a case-by-case basis,” Ritzinger added.

“It is absolutely critical that the impact on the competitiveness of the Australian industry and the retooling costs are adequately considered.”

It says  that analysis of the detail of the proposed implementation plan further highlights the need for Government to hold off on increasing trailer width.

While the HVIA  is worried about trailer width making  the local trailer building industry uncompetitive against global competition, the  reality is that overseas trailer imports brought here in the past have always failed dismally in terms of reliability and durability, while an increase of just 5cm should be easily managed  by local trailer makers, particularly given one company dominates the local market.

Apart from anything else T&B News finds it hard to believe that transport operators  will instantly go out and  replace all their trailers if granted an extra 50 millimetres in width and certainly don’t believe the government’s intention would be to command that all trailers  conform retrospecticvey to new wider dimension limits.

The reality is the main benefit to the Australian economy will come from the ability for truck makers to bring the latest designs and technology in prime movers and rigid trucks here without costly redesigns and modifications.

In fairness  the HVIA’s national policy and government relations manager, Greg Forbes said the proportion of trucks with the safer freight vehicle (SFV) package fitted needs to be large enough before changes to trailer width will make sense.

“The model proposed by the NHVR would restrict wider trailers from being towed by vehicles which did not have the full suite of SFV features fitted.” Forbes said.

“This would cause basic interoperability issues for fleets with wider trailers; having a fleet of trucks with and without the safety features would be difficult to manage, in an operational sense.”

TheHVIA also said the paper highlights the need to review and update previous industry-led advice regarding brake system interoperability but does not recognise the significant time and effort required.

“The current guide to braking stability and performance for heavy vehicle combinations was the result of several years of collaboration between six industry associations, and five brake equipment manufacturers and suppliers,” Ritzinger said.

“Updating that guide will take time, and it must be done correctly, as the industry relies on that advice to be able to operate safely.”

Greg Forbes said HVIA has consistently pushed for a measured and thorough approach to the proposed changes to the Australian Design Rules.

“While changing truck width to 2.55m as soon as possible makes sense, there is a lot more work to be done before Government should even consider changing trailer width,” he said.