Vehicle registrations will not be allowed to lapse if the changes proposed in new research by Austroads and the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) see the light of day.
The "Better Management of End-of-Life Vehicles" report notes that while more than 700,000 vehicles are ‘retired’ from the national vehicle fleet every year, very few of these see the operator surrender the vehicle’s registration, or see the vehicle classified as being ineligible for re-registration.
Instead, records for these vehicles often simply show that the registration has not been renewed – a system that NVMTRC says creates a risk of the vehicles being stolen for scrap or dangerous chemicals being released from the vehicles unchecked, if they are not destroyed at a recognised facility or left to deteriorate.
In fact, the report quotes the NMVTRC’s estimates that related ‘theft-for-scrap’ rackets account for more than 50 per cent of total stolen vehicle costs per annum at around $28.6m – excluding policing and other justice costs.
To help prevent this, the report proposes two new systems for vehicle registration – the "open loop" and "closed loop" – to replace the current system, where vehicles stop being registered when this registration is not renewed (and fees paid).
Under the open loop proposal, a vehicle owner must apply for the vehicle to stop being registered – allowing the vehicle to be taken out temporarily, and able to be re-registered at a later stage, with no maximum timeframe in place.
This, the report said, would mean registration records can be updated to show a vehicle has been removed or been destroyed – thus helping to prevent vehicle rebirthing.
The closed loop proposal, on the other hand, requires a registered vehicle to be the responsibility of an individual at all times, until that vehicle is legally "destroyed or exported".
Noting that this is the system currently applied in the United Kingdom, the report said it was likely that this system would deliver the highest level of compliance.
"The degree of success of such a system will depend on how it is configured and in particular in regard to the form of sanction placed on the registered operator," the report said.
Speaking with ATN, NMVTRC director of strategy and programming Geoff Hughes said his organisation was keen to see a system that provided greater certainty about the current status of a vehicle – whether it had been destroyed, was suspended or was in fact in current use.
"From our perspective the report paints a useful pathway for any jurisdiction, it is a state and territory responsibility, there is no real commonwealth jurisdiction in this space," he said.
"It is a model policy framework if you like… The next step would be to subject those options to a COAG-style cost benefit analysis, but we haven’t got agreement to do that at this point."
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