National Operating Standard

National Operating Standard – Case Study

Why All Heavy Vehicles Should Have a Safety Management System


Australia’s Heavy Vehicle National Law should:

  • encourage and embrace the use of technology for safety and access purposes; and
  • ensure operators have suitable safety management systems in place and the capital necessary to ensure the safe operation of heavy vehicles.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) believes these goals can be achieved through the incorporation of a national operating standard for heavy vehicle operators into the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

An important element of the standard would be a requirement for operators to maintain a safety management system (SMS), scalable to the size of the business, meeting standards made by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

ALC recently surveyed its members. They say the advantages of adopting an SMS include the:

  • introduction of disciplines such as the creation of ‘actual journey reports’ to allow for the monitoring of speed, Chain of Responsibility compliance, fitness for work requirements and driver fatigue;
  • development of maintenance management programmes so as minimise the change of breakdowns and so maximise productivity levels; and
  • encouragement of a culture that actively manages risks through the building in risk assessments and then, when necessary, change policies and procedures.

SMS’ are a well-known tool designed to manage workplace safety. These are used in a number of industries with significant safety risks, including the aviation, petroleum, chemical, railway and electricity sectors.

In NSW, accredited bus and coach operators and taxi operators must maintain and operate an SMS[1].

ALC believes that the amendments to the HVNL should be made that are similar in nature that applies to buses. These require bus and coach operators to comply with guidelines made under the bus safety law.[2]

Ask any member of the community: if it is appropriate for bus and taxi operators to maintain an SMS, it is also appropriate for the operator of heavy vehicles.

As the NHVR has said:

 A Safety Management System is …. an effective way for an organisation to comply with the additional responsibilities under Chain of Responsibility laws in the coming months,” …..

Templates can be downloaded from the NHVR’s website to assist businesses to develop their own safety policy, risk management or incident reporting processes, as well as other essential activities.

We (the NHVR) know that heavy vehicle businesses are very diverse so one-size doesn’t fit all. The tools we are launching today and in the future are scalable and can be adapted to any size business.

Simple low costs steps like appropriate safety training for employees – regardless of their role in the business – makes them part of a business’s safety goals and objectives.

SMS guidance material and templates produced by the NHVR may be found here:

This makes two important points:

  • an SMS is scalable – the cost of preparing an SMS and the document’s complexity will vary with the business; and
  • assistance is available to assist operators in preparing a suitable SMS.

Finally, having the NHVR making common SMS standards should lead to productivity gains through a reduction in audit duplication – an audit of an operator’s safety systems conducted by a qualified auditor using the common SMS standards should be able to be relied on by all supply chain participants.

This means that the development of an auditing framework establishing appropriate auditor qualifications and practices should form an integral part of the HVNL reform.


The creation of a National Operator Standard offers the opportunity to enhance the safety and productivity outcomes of heavy vehicle operators – key objectives of the HVNL.

The opportunity should be taken to make these amendments to the National Law and to make the legislation fit for the 2020s and beyond.


[1] For buses: section 9D of the Passenger Transport Act 1990 (NSW). For taxis: Division 2 of Part 2 of the Point to Point (Taxi and Hire Vehicles) Regulation 2017 (NSW)

[2] Found at:

Read more about the Standard here:

A National Operating Standard Policy

A National Operating Standard Policy

National Operating Standard Policy cover

A National Operating Standard Fact Sheet

A National Operating Standard Fact Sheet