Assurance

In August 2019 the National Transport Commission (NTC) released the Assurance Models issues paper, outlining the limitations with the assurance schemes and mechanisms in the current HVNL.

What we said

  • schemes are disconnected and don't provide comprehensive coverage of heavy vehicle operational areas
  • there are inconsistencies in the way schemes link risk management roles
  • having multiple schemes without mutual recognition leads to duplicated effort and resources
  • schemes don't provide the level of confidence needed by governments and other stakeholders

What we heard

It is governments’ view that an assurance framework must provide governments, operators and the public with confidence in the safety standards of heavy vehicles on the network.

An assurance framework should provide alternative compliance mechanisms for regulated parties to demonstrate compliance with set standards. These mechanisms should be unambiguous, accessible, scalable and financially viable for operators.

Ministers should approve standards. The Regulator should maintain direct control over accreditation decisions. Any regulatory exemptions or concessions should be limited to schemes under the direct control of the Regulator.

It was noted that the design of a new accreditation framework will need to have a clear relationship with the safety duties under a new HVNL and to complement a risk-based approach to enforcement.

Governments agree that a new HVNL should prevent customers from requiring their contractors to participate in specific assurance arrangements.

The Regulator believes that a consistent and coherent overarching assurance framework which promotes confidence in the competence and capacity of operators to meet their safety duties is needed. This could be achieved through a national accreditation standard and a national audit standard.

The Regulator supports the development of a re-cast HVNL that will enable them to apply a risk-based regulatory assurance model, rather than a prescriptive approach to regulatory assurance.

The Regulator believes regulatory assurance schemes should incentivise a positive safety culture.

The HVNL should provide the head of power for the Regulator to establish assurance schemes with administrative detail contained in legally enforceable guidelines, standards, codes or practice and business rules for these schemes.

The HVNL should also enable regulatory assurance schemes to access enforcement data, where appropriate to verify that auditing processes are robust. Data can be used to deliver a risk-based, intelligence-led approach to compliance.

Lack of confidence and trust is viewed as the root cause of the ineffectiveness and inconsistencies of the current accreditation schemes. There is a view that assurance mechanisms are needed under a new HVNL because of the diversity within the industry. However, they must be tied to measurable and demonstrable outcomes to be effective. Quality audits and auditors are essential to the integrity and credibility of any scheme.

Generally, this group supports developing a single national accreditation framework where multiple industry schemes can be recognised. The Regulator should develop standards and approve accreditation schemes.

Some peak bodies and operators believe there should be a mandatory entry level assurance scheme to ensure all operators have the basic capacity and systems in place to operate safely. A safety management system approach could be applied provided it is scalable and flexible. This level should be owned and run by the government.

Above the basic entry level assurance, voluntary schemes could be developed to cater for specific regulatory assurance/alternative compliance options. The regulator would be the final endorser of these schemes, however the systems could be managed and developed by other parties. Regulatory incentives should be available to all operators accredited under an approved scheme.

It was stated that operators are unlikely to join an accreditation scheme if the costs are not offset by clear safety and productivity benefits.

Peak bodies and operators emphasised the need to address the large administrative burden operators are facing from multiple audits. In addition to a single national accreditation framework, this could be achieved if accreditation provided “deemed compliance” or a “safe harbour" to chain parties in the event of a breach or incident. However, this must be balance with requirements that prevent requests to be certified under a particular scheme.

Other stakeholders said:

  • An assurance model will not deliver its full potential if the regulatory, enforcement and compliance cultures are not aligned. Information flow and feedback loops are essential to support good governance and continuous improvement
  • All operators should be required to meet the same minimum requirements to demonstrate they have the capacity and basic systems to operate safely
  • The role of the regulator should be to develop standards, approve schemes and ensure robust audit frameworks. They should not run an accreditation scheme.
  • Current accreditation schemes do not prevent chain parties from requiring drivers to fill in additional forms. These forms not only duplicate what drivers are required to do for their own compliance but often got well beyond.

Most respondents were supportive of:

  • Preventing customers from requiring contractors to participate in their own specific assurance arrangements
  • Accreditation being accepted as “deemed compliance” in certain circumstances, provided the supporting framework is robust and gives confidence that standards are being met.

Respondents did not agree on mandatory operating standards for all operators, access to regulatory benefits or the role of the Regulator in developing standards.

Last updated 17 February, 2020