The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) provides that certain classes of heavy vehicles (restricted access vehicles), despite being registered and compliant with the HVNL and other legal requirements, may only be used on a public road if the operator has been granted access through a notice or permit (mass or dimension authority) from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR). Restricted access vehicles are subject to restrictions to ensure that the use of these vehicles does not endanger public safety, and to minimise or avoid any adverse impact on road infrastructure and public amenity.
The Approved Guidelines for Granting Access (currently being updated) contains high-level guidance and clarity on aspects of heavy vehicle access decision making under the HVNL. The HVNL requires that road managers, road authorities and the NHVR must ‘have regard to’ these guidelines.
Roles and responsibilities
- Road managers – include state and territory road transport authorities, local governments and some other road owners, such as ports or forestry agencies. The road manager is responsible for consenting on whether restricted access vehicles are allowed on its roads and conditions that should apply.
- State and territory road transport authorities – the road transport department or agency in each state or territory that is responsible for freeways, highways and other arterial roads, as well as transport regulation in general. The road authority is usually a road manager also. Under the HVNL, road authorities have the power to overrule the decisions of road managers in some situations through a request from the NHVR. Visit State and territory road transport authorities for further information.
- Third-party providers – can include Police, rail infrastructure managers, utilities, private road owners, forestry agencies and port authorities. Where another law requires it, third parties may need to provide consent, or at least be consulted with, before the NHVR can grant access. Visit Third-party provider approval for more information.
- NHVR – considers requests for access and makes the final decision to grant a mass or dimension authority. The NHVR can only grant access if:
- it is satisfied that the use of heavy vehicles under the authority will not pose a significant risk to public safety
- each relevant road manager has consented to the grant
- any other consents required by law have been obtained or given.
The law does not impose time limits on the NHVR’s role in access decision making. This is because:
- The NHVR is not able to make its access decision until all consents from road managers and other entities have been received. Some road managers may respond within the default 28 days while others may take up to 6 months (if an extension is requested by the road manager and agreed to by the NHVR). Also, time periods for consents from other entities are not specified in the HVNL and may be prescribed by other legislation.
- Sometimes further information is required before the NHVR, road managers and other entities can consider the application.
- An application for access may evolve as the applicant, NHVR and road managers negotiate on the possible routes and conditions.
Despite no legally imposed timeframes, the NHVR aims to provide efficient turnaround times and to keep the applicant informed of the status of the application.
Timing of road manager decisions
The NHVR works with road managers to obtain road manager decisions as quickly as possible, mindful of the requirements of the transport industry in obtaining timely responses but also understanding of the resource impacts for road managers in undertaking these decisions.
In terms of an outer limit, the HVNL requires road managers to respond to a request for consent from the NHVR within 28 days (unless an extension is agreed with the NHVR, which are possible in some cases for a maximum period of 6 months). Road managers requested to provide consent under an ‘expedited approval process’ are required to respond within 14 days (unless an extension is requested and granted by the NHVR). The expedited approval process is used when replacing notices or permits that have been granted previously. Through this process, if the road manager fails to respond within the timeframe, consent is taken as provided.
NHVR agreeing to extensions
Extensions to the 28 day time limit, up to a maximum of 6 months, may be granted if consultation is required under a law with another entity, or if the road manager considers a route assessment to be necessary for making a decision on whether or not to consent to the access. In such cases, the road manager should respond to the NHVR requesting an extension be granted.
A route assessment is an assessment of the impacts, or likely impacts, of relevant restricted access vehicle use on road infrastructure in the areas or on the routes requested in the application for access. This can include structural assessments on bridges, pavements, culverts, tunnels and the like, as well as geometrical assessments such as swept paths at intersections, stacking distances and overtaking provision. It does not include assessment of non-road infrastructure elements including amenity issues or public consultation processes.
NHVR road manager hotline
Local government road managers can contact the NHVR for assistance with permit processing on the NHVR road manager hotline 1300 880 493 or email RM.firstname.lastname@example.org