Laws and regulations - frequently asked questions

Heavy Vehicle National Law

What is the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL)?

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) establishes the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (the Regulator) and a single national system of laws for heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes GVM and is expected to deliver business and safety benefits to the heavy vehicle industry.

From commencement, the Regulator will assume responsibility for regulating the heavy vehicle industry under the HVNL. This will deliver a significant improvement in the consistency of regulation for the heavy vehicle industry. You can see more info on Heavy Vehicle National Law on the NHVR website.


  • Manages the impact of heavy vehicles on the environment, road infrastructure and public amenity
  • Promotes industry productivity and efficiency
  • Consolidates current national heavy vehicle model laws and replaces corresponding state and territory legislation.

The regulatory framework under the HVNL prescribes requirements about:

  • the standards heavy vehicles must meet before they can use our roads
  • the maximum permissible mass and dimensions of heavy vehicles
  • securing and restraining loads on heavy vehicles
  • ensuring parties in the chain of responsibility are held responsible for drivers of heavy vehicles exceeding speed limits
  • preventing drivers of heavy vehicles from driving while impaired by fatigue
  • nationally consistent penalties.

The HVNL will not apply to vehicle registration from its commencement (see below) or to:

  • Driver licensing.
  • Safety and traffic management (including speeding offences, drug and alcohol offences and road rules).
  • The regulation of dangerous goods vehicles and their drivers.
  • Bus driver authorities and bus operator accreditation.

Why change the laws for heavy vehicles?

Previously, there have been differences between the heavy vehicle road transport laws operating in each state and territory despite the development of national model laws. This has made it difficult for operators to navigate the rules and comply with inconsistent jurisdictional requirements.

The HVNL aims to reduce the compliance burden for business, increase Australia’s international competitiveness, and make it easier for business to operate across state and territory borders.

When will the HVNL commence?

The HVNL was introduced first in Queensland. New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have passed legislation to adopt the HVNL in their jurisdictions.

The HVNL will commence nationally on a date to be determined. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will commence the HVNL at a later time. Western Australian has decided not to adopt the HVNL at this stage.

Will the HVNL commence all at once?

Chapter 2 relating to Registration in the HVNL will not commence with the rest of the legislation. A national heavy vehicle registration system is currently being developed by the NHVR, in consultation with jurisdictions. Heavy vehicles will continue to be registered under state and territory laws until the system is developed and Chapter 2 can commence (nominally 2015).

What will be the main differences between the old national laws and the new HVNL? 

NSW had already adopted the national model laws so a majority of the provisions in the HVNL are similar to current NSW law. However, there are changes in the Heavy Vehicle (Adoption of National Law) Bill 2013. For further comparisons of the HVNL (NSW) with current road transport law relating to heavy vehicles see the Legislative comparison tables (PDF, 544.41 KB).

These NSW variations include:

  • Road trains will remain speed limited to 90 km/h.
  • A heavy vehicle detected travelling more than 115 km/h will continue to provide evidence of the offence of having a non-compliant speed limiter.
  • Additional offences will attract demerit points.
  • Vehicle monitoring devices will continue to be required for certain vehicles.
  • Requirements for school bus lights and signs will be retained
  • Livestock carriers are allowed an additional floating one tonne (by exemption notice).
  • The bus sector will retain its fatigue exemption and certain allowances for mass and dimension.
  • Time spent in the driver’s seat of the vehicle while the engine is running will still count as rest time if the vehicle is stationary and other requirements are met.
  • Risk classification system (RCS) for Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) operators will apply, in exception circumstances however there may be additional NSW conditions.
  • Drivers with Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) and AFM accreditation will not be required to fill in their work diaries for local work (work within a 100km radius of the driver’s base) for two years after the commencement of the HVNL.
  • The work diary exemption for primary producers travelling within a 160km radius of their home base will be retained.
  • Exemptions for emergency service staff from the need to complete work diaries during an emergency will continue.
  • Number plates will continue to attract a defect notice if damaged or illegible.

On the other hand, NSW will conform to the HVNL in a number of areas:

  • Spray suppression devices will no longer be required to be fitted to heavy vehicles in NSW.
  • Vehicles registered in NSW but inspected in another jurisdiction for the purposes of clearing a defect or approving a vehicle modification will have those inspections recognised in NSW.
  • The short rest break defence will be adopted for Standard Hours: this means that where a driver is required to take a short rest break and is unable to find a suitable rest place, he or she may drive for up to 45 minutes in order to find a suitable place to rest.

Other new measures include:

  • Defect notices must be cleared by the Regulator which includes inspection by a recognised facility or examiner in NSW or by a recognised facility or examiner in another participating state or territory.
  • Modified heavy vehicles will require a modification plate to be fitted to the vehicle as part of the certification and registration process.
  • Access permits and notices will be issued by the Regulator and notices will be published in the Commonwealth Gazette. State, territory and local governments will operate as ‘road managers’ under the law and will undertake route assessments and may impose road and travel conditions decisions regarding access.
  • The upper limit for work time in a 24 hour period under Advanced Fatigue Management will be stipulated via the new Risk Classification Scheme (RCS). This may involve up to 15.5 hours work time in NSW if appropriate countermeasures are in place.

How will NSW bus drivers and operators be impacted by the HVNL?

Bus drivers and operators will retain the exemptions they currently experience under NSW law. These are preserved in the HVNL (NSW). In addition, as indicated, wig-wag lights for school buses will be retained.

What services will the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) provide? 

The Regulator already provides a number of services (since January 2013) and will offer others when the law is commenced nationally. These include:

  • issuing national notices and permits for heavy vehicle access
  • determining AFM accreditation conditions in line with the risk classification scheme
  • regulating national vehicle inspection standards, including modifications and exemptions
  • administering a national driver work diary
  • issuing National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS) approvals
  • developing Performance Based Standards (PBS) for vehicle design and issuing vehicle access approvals.

What role will Transport for NSW have when the HVNL commences?

Transport for NSW will provide on-road enforcement, vehicle standards inspections, licensing of ‘approved vehicle examiners’ for vehicle modifications (currently Vehicle Safety & Compliance Certification Scheme operators) Transport for NSW will make access decisions as the road manager for NSW roads (along with local councils) and impose road and travel conditions on permits and authorities.

What role will Police have from commencement?

NSW Police Service will enforce the HVNL (along with Transport for NSW authorised officers) in the same way it enforces road transport legislation currently.


Are there any changes to the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS)?

Since January 2013, responsibility for the NHVAS has transitioned to the NHVR. Roads and Martime customers now deal directly with the Regulator for all NHVAS applications, renewals and queries. Operators can submit applications by mail, fax or email. There are no changes to existing application fees, or to the NHVAS business rules.

Accreditation schemes include:

  • Mass Management: accredited operators in the Mass Management module can access additional mass concessions. These concessions allow a vehicle to operate at Concessional Mass Limits (CML) for general access to the road network. Operation at Higher Mass Limits (HML) for specific routes is available if operators meet additional operating conditions.
  • Maintenance Management: Operators accredited in the Maintenance Management module are provided an exemption to the requirement to have vehicles inspected annually for the purposes of registration. To be provided with the exemption, vehicles must be adequately maintained and comply with all applicable vehicle standards at all times.
  • Fatigue Management: Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) option: this accreditation offers more flexible hours including the ability for drivers to work 14 hour shifts. Operators have a greater say over when drivers can work and rest, but the risks of working long hours or at night must be properly managed.
  • Fatigue Management: Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) option: Advanced Fatigue AFM brings a risk management approach to managing fatigue, rather than prescribing work and rest hours. It offers more flexible hours than Standard Hours or BFM in return for the operator demonstrating greater accountability for managing fatigue risks. See below for discussion of the Risk Classification Scheme being developed by the Regulator.
  • The NSW Livestock Loading Scheme will be maintained with Transport for NSW determining the charging of fees, issuing of business rules, setting of conditions and requirements and issuing of forms and labels. A more harmonised national approach to local productivity schemes such as this one will be explored in the medium term between the Regulator and all jurisdictions, including NSW.

Fatigue management

What are the arrangements for work and rest hours under the HVNL?

The three current working hours options for fatigue management will remain under the HVNL (see Fatigue Management on the NHVR website):

  1. Standard hours
    For operators who do not have accreditation for fatigue management. Drivers must work to standard hours if the operator they work for does not hold BFM or AFM accreditation.
  2. Basic Fatigue Management (BFM)
    For operators that require some flexibility in their work and rest hours. To be eligible to operate under BFM, operators must be accredited under the NHVAS.
  3. Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM)
    For operators who are able to demonstrate accountability for managing fatigue risks. To be eligible to operate under AFM, operators must be accredited under the NHVAS.

How will the Regulator manage Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) accreditation?

The Regulator is further refining its risk classification system (RCS) to manage fatigue under AFM accreditation a pilot of the scheme will be undertaken followed by a ‘post implementation surveillance review’ with reports at 12, 24 and 36 month intervals.

NSW will apply the RCS. Applicants for AFM accreditation will need to apply to the Regulator in the first instance. However, in certain circumstances, the NSW Minister may apply conditions in relation to rest times, additional compliance with business rules or business practices for longer working hours (up to 15.5 hrs) to ensure that the risk of fatigue is managed appropriately.

Will a new work diary be required?

A National Written Work Diary, was issued by the Regulator on 10 February 2014 and can be purchased from Transport for NSW Registries and Service NSW Centres. Drivers have been able to to use their old work diaries during a transition period of six months. However from 10 Aug 2014, ALL drivers required to carry and fill in a work diary must use the new version of the diary.

From 10 August, Transport for NSW Enforcement Officers and Police will be enforcing the requirement to carry and use the National Written Work Diary.

Will there be changes to National Written Work Diary requirements?

The HVNL prescribes a nationally consistent set of work diary requirements. This means standard hours drivers will be required to complete a work diary when undertaking 100+ km work (work outside a 100km radius of the driver’s base).

Drivers with BFM and AFM accreditations will be required to complete a work diary at all times. However in NSW there will be a two year transition period during which BFM and AFM drivers will not be required to fill in a work diary for local work (within a 100km radius of the driver’s base).

 Vehicle standards

How will vehicle standards exemptions be managed under the HVNL?

When the national law commences in participating states, the Regulator will be responsible for the application of the national heavy vehicle standards and for granting exemptions.

Applicants for vehicle standards exemption permits will apply to the Regulator through a national online portal.

The Heavy Vehicle National Law defines a modification as ‘any alteration to the vehicle, including the addition of components to, or the removal of components from, the vehicle’. A simple classification system has been created to describe modifications that require approval, either by an approved vehicle examiner or the Regulator:

  • Minor modifications where the vehicle remains compliant with vehicle standards and do not require approval of an approved vehicle examiner or the Regulator.
  • Complex modifications are those included in the NHVR Code of Practice for the Approval of Heavy Vehicle Modifications (the Code). These modifications require approval by an approved vehicle examiner (currently licensed certifier) with the issue of a certificate of modification and the fixing of a modification plate to the vehicle. Modifications under the Code do not require direct approval by the Regulator.
  • Modifications outside the Code are modifications not covered by the Code and those that cause the vehicle not to comply with a vehicle standard. These modifications require approval by the Regulator.

Heavy vehicle inspections in all jurisdictions will be carried out according to harmonised national standards.

How will heavy vehicles be inspected for registration or to have a defect cleared?

Vehicle examiner schemes and services will continue to be managed by each jurisdiction, however the HVNL will allow for approved schemes to be recognised across participating jurisdictions. This means that an inspector accredited under a Regulator-approved scheme can undertake a vehicle inspection or clear a defect under a nationally agreed set of standards.

Operators whose vehicles are registered in NSW must notify Transport for NSW that the vehicle inspection for a modification has been completed or a defect has been cleared in another state or territory outside NSW to ensure that the registration of the vehicle is not affected.

Will Heavy Vehicle Safety Stations still operate?

Yes, Transport for NSW Heavy Vehicle Safety Stations currently used to inspect heavy vehicles will continue to operate in NSW.

 Fines and penalties

How will fines and penalties change with the HVNL?

The introduction of the HVNL means that for the first time, drivers, operators and others in the supply chain will be subject to the same penalties for breaking the law regardless of where they operate in Australia.

Previously every state and territory set their own penalty levels. Developing the HVNL brings together all states and territories (except Western Australia) to agree on a single, national approach.

Penalty amounts will change from those currently in NSW road transport law. There will be some new offences but second and subsequent offence provisions (higher penalties for repeat offences) will not be included in the HVNL at this stage. In addition, some offences previously enforced via a penalty notice in NSW law will, under the HVNL, be enforced by a court attendance notice. Legal and court processes will remain largely the same.

Will offences in the HVNL will attract demerit points?

As is currently the case with NSW law, the HVNL includes several offences to which a demerit point penalty is attached. These include:

  • severe and critical breaches of operating hours for drivers of fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles
  • defect notice offences.

Additional demerit point offences in HVNL (NSW) are:

  • use vehicle with defective brakes
  • use vehicle with defective steering
  • use vehicle with seatbelt missing/defective
  • use vehicle with defective seating
  • use vehicle not fitted/equipped with seatbelts/anchorages
  • use vehicle with dangerous protrusion on bullbar
  • use vehicle with obscured/defaced/illegible number-plate or number-plate not displayed or affixed in accordance with Regulation
  • use of unregistered vehicle (*for heavy vehicles only)
  • use vehicle with unauthorised number-plate
  • use vehicle displaying altered number-plate
  • use vehicle displaying misleading number-plate.