Local councils - frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
With the introduction of Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) in participating jurisdictions around Australia on 10 February 2014, issuing permits became the responsibility of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR). The HVNL requires the NHVR to obtain consent from all road managers before a permit can be issued.
After the commencement of the HVNL the NHVR experienced systems problems which led to delays in issuing permits to the transport industry. In order to assist the NHVR, on 21 February 2014 the NSW Government accepted a delegation from the NHVR to allow road managers in NSW to issue permits. The delegation commenced on 25 February 2014. This delegation returns the practise for issuing permits to a process which is as similar as possible to that in place in NSW before the introduction of the new law on 10 February 2014.
The delegation provides all road managers in NSW with the power to issue heavy vehicle access permits for Class 1 and Class 3 heavy vehicles for travel within NSW. Acting under the delegation, councils can issue permits directly to heavy vehicle operators for journeys for roads managed by council within their local government area. Under the delegation, Roads and Maritime Services can only issue permits for travel on state managed roads. The NHVR will continue to issue permits for interstate journeys.
The delegation is an interim measure to assist the NHVR to improve the system to issue permits. The current delegation will expire on 21 February 2016, however, it is expected that the NHVR access management systems will be functioning successfully before this time.
Under the previous Road Transport (General) Act, councils were delegated road managers by the Minister for Roads and Ports to make access decisions in relation to local roads. Roads and Maritime issued permits for approved access requests for the state managed roads only and a condition of the permit was that transport operators required the approval of other road managers as required. The new process resulting from the delegation is similar in concept to the former process.
The HVNL establishes the role of the ‘road manager’ for heavy vehicle access permits. Roads and Maritime is the road manager for state roads under the HVNL. Local councils are the road managers for local roads. As with the previous transport law in NSW, road managers including local councils have the right of approval or refusal of access requests to their roads.
No, council functions and obligations under the Roads Act remain unchanged. The Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Act 2013 recognises council’s role as a road manager.
Section 17 Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Act 2013 (NSW) provides that the road manager for a public road is the roads authority for that road as provided for in the Roads Act 1993 (NSW).
Information on the delegation of council functions can be found in Sections 377 and 378 of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW).
Roads and Maritime and local councils will be required to consider access applications as road managers but, in accordance with the delegation, they will also have the power to issue permits. The issuing of permits is the only additional expansion of duties under the delegation. Councils have always had similar road manager powers including the requirement to assess access applications.
In granting access permits local councils must have regard to the NHVR approved guidelines.
Templates councils may wish to use including industry permit forms are available from Roads and Maritime. These templates cover all potential access requests eligible for permits under the delegation and these templates have been approved for use by the NHVR. If you wish to use different council permit templates, these must be submitted by councils to the NHVR for approval. In considering access requests councils may seek any additional information that it requires to make a decision from the heavy vehicle operator.
In accordance with the HVNL, a road manager can only deny an access application if the heavy vehicle journey will or is likely to:
- Cause damage to road infrastructure; or
- Impose adverse effects on the community arising from noise, emissions or traffic congestion or from other matters stated in approved guidelines; or
- Pose a significant risk to public safety arising from heavy vehicle use that is incompatible with road infrastructure or traffic conditions; and,
- These effects cannot be managed by imposing road conditions or travel conditions.
Where conditions are imposed on an access request or council declines to grant access, an information notice must be provided to the applicant explaining the reasons for the decision.
If council decides to approve access but wants to apply conditions, there are three categories defined in the HVNL - travel conditions, road conditions and vehicle conditions. Council must provide a written information notice to the applicant to explain the required conditions.
Road conditions ensure the use of a restricted access vehicle on particular routes does not endanger road infrastructure, impose adverse effects on the community or pose significant risk to public safety. Road conditions may include restricted access to certain routes or bridges, travel in certain lanes, or restrictions on the carriage of a load as well as the requirement of enrolment in the Intelligent Access Program.
Travel conditions ensure the movement of restricted access vehicles is limited to certain times or in a certain direction on a route. These include travel restrictions during peak hours or on a school bus route or imposing a direction for travel (for example, northbound only).
Vehicle conditions are applied to ensure a restricted access vehicle operates safely on a public road. Examples include requirements for a vehicle to be configured in a certain manner, such as having particular axle spacing. In addition vehicle conditions may include a described safety feature such as electronic stability control, or have noise mitigation equipment installed.
Under the HVNL, access decisions of road managers, including councils, concerning road access are subject to internal review to be conducted in accordance with specific requirements under the HVNL.
Access decisions to refuse access or approve access subject to conditions are reviewable internally. An information notice must be provided for these access conditions. The written information notice must set out the findings of material facts, the evidence or other material supporting these findings, and identify every document that is relevant to the decision.
For example, if the road manager has carried out a route assessment and determined the relevant road cannot handle the restricted access vehicle for which access is sought, it is required to set out in writing the reasons for the decision and refer to the route assessment report in its reasons.
Council must provide the information notice to the applicant with the permit if the permit is denied or contains conditions.
If council does not respond to consent requests, after 28 days in accordance with the HVNL, this is deemed to be a denial. A deemed denial may trigger the internal access review process.
A heavy vehicle is a Class 1 heavy vehicle if it, together with its load, does not comply with a prescribed mass requirement or prescribed dimension requirement applying to it, and:
- it is a special purpose vehicle; or
- it is an agricultural vehicle other than an agricultural trailer; or
- is a heavy vehicle carrying, or designed for the purpose of carrying, a large indivisible item, including, for example, a combination including a low loader; but
- is not a road train or B-double, or carrying a freight container designed for multi-modal transport.
An agricultural trailer is a Class 1 heavy vehicle, irrespective of whether it, together with its load, does or does not comply with a prescribed mass requirement or prescribed dimension requirement applying to it.
A heavy vehicle is a Class 3 heavy vehicle if it, together with its load, does not comply with a prescribed mass requirement or prescribed dimension requirement applying to it and it does not fit into the description of the Class 1 vehicle.
Road managers have up to 28 days to make an access decision. Many heavy vehicle operators have business models which do not accommodate a 28 day turn around for approvals and require permits within 24 hours. Many of these requests are for the movement of equipment for construction projects and the mining and agricultural industries.
Under the delegation, councils can charge the regulated fee ($70) for issuing access permits. The fee is to assist local councils with the administrative costs of issuing permits and providing the services to industry.
As the road manager, council may determine a route assessment is required for consideration of the access application. A fee for completing a route assessment may be charged. The council is not required to process the application or carry out the route assessment until such time as the applicant has paid the route assessment fee. The applicant has 28 days to pay the route assessment fee and may ask for an extension of time to pay.
If the applicant does not pay the route assessment fee within 28 days, the application is treated as having been withdrawn and no further action is required by the road manager. Examples of route assessments which would attract a fee include those which include an independent bridge or pavement assessment. Councils may chose to continue using the Roads and Maritime published Freight Route Investigation Levels when considering applications as well as route assessments.
The delegation only allows councils and Roads and Maritime to issue permits for journeys within NSW. Interstate journeys, as well as Class 2 vehicles (for example PBS, road trains and B Doubles), are still managed by the NHVR. Councils are required to respond as road managers to access requests they receive from the NHVR for interstate journeys. Information on how to respond to access requests from the NHVR is available on the NHVR website.
In this situation local councils cannot charge the $70.00 fee for considering an access request as the NHVR is issuing the final permit. Councils may charge a route assessment fee, if applicable.
If council receives an access application from a transport operator which includes roads in other states, council should advise the transport operator that they are not able to process the application and refer the transport operator to the NHVR.
Some councils currently invite the Local Traffic Committee (LTC) to provide advice on heavy vehicle traffic matters including approval of routes for heavy vehicle access. The Regulation of Traffic Guideline, which establishes the LTC, stipulates that B-double and other access approvals are not part of the delegation to Traffic Committee.
Further information can be found in Section D5 of the Route Assessment Guidelines (PDF, 1.3MB).