Truck firms slam long wait for permits
ONE STOP: Truck drivers Daniel Bower, Mark Goldspring, and Michael Wenham are not happy with the changes. Picture: Peter StoopHEAVY vehicles carrying over-sized loads are allegedly driving without permits because of massive delays in obtaining the crucial paperwork from a new federal ‘‘one-stop shop’’ set up to provide them.
Hunter truck companies say the coal industry would have ground to a halt if all of the operators contracted to move heavy vehicles between mines on public roads had waited for their permits.
Paterson MP Bob Baldwin said he could not condone the actions of any companies that drove without permits. But he understood the ‘‘anguish’’ of an industry hamstrung by the failures of the federal, state and local governments and their bureaucracies.
He had personally briefed Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss over the weekend about the issue, and the government understood a solution was needed urgently.
In a prepared statement, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator chief executive Richard Hancock acknowledged the delays.
Mr Hancock said the regulator had introduced ‘‘temporary changes to its standard process for issuing access permits’’.
These changes allowed truck companies to obtain their own permits from local councils rather than wait for the regulator to get them.
The Newcastle Herald asked the regulator whether trucks were driving without permits, as Mr Baldwin and others had confirmed they believed was the case, but a spokeswoman said it would take time to prepare an answer.
Daniel Bower of Betts Bower Haulage said he and other operators had trucks and drivers sitting in yards, unable to move without permits.
‘‘You hear of others on the road without permits because of this, but we have no choice but to sit it out until they fix it up,’’ Mr Bower said.
Mark Goldspring of Goldsprings Earthmoving and Heavy Haulage at Maitland said the delays had cost him $400,000 and the changes announced by the regulator had achieved nothing.
‘‘It’s a day-to-day business,’’ Mr Goldspring said.
‘‘A mine will ring me and say they need a drill rig or a dozer or something moved in a couple of days, and right now we are having to say we can’t because we can’t get the permits.
‘‘Under the old state system you’d contact the Roads and Maritime Services at Glen Innes and they’d get it back to you within a few days, sometimes within a couple of hours.
‘‘Now we have to go to the national office in Brisbane, and they go to Glen Innes, and now it’s taking three weeks and when you get the permits they’re usually wrong.
‘‘We’ve had a driver and truck waiting for five days in South Australia to pick up a dump truck for a mine at Singleton.
‘‘We applied for the permit three weeks ago and it arrived today with the wrong weight – it said the truck was 105tonnes laden and it’s 145tonnes – and it had a letter missing from the registration number.
Mr Baldwin said the coal industry was not the only victim.
‘‘I’ve had a lot of operators ringing me, including one bloke unable to move a demountable building to Port Stephens for a holiday park,’’ Mr Baldwin said.
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon said Labor’s idea had been to build a ‘‘seamless’’ national system but it was obviously not working.
He said the main problem appeared to be obtaining permits from local councils, which Mr Hancock confirmed.
Mr Baldwin said former Liberal MP Bruce Baird was the regulator’s chairman but he was ‘‘disappointed that no one seems to be driving the bureaucracy’’.
Mr Hancock said the regulator recognised the impact caused by ‘‘even a day’s delay’’.