Changes to the Chain of Responsibility laws are coming!

17 August 2018

On 1 October 2018, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) will be amended to provide that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities. In practical terms, this primary duty represents an obligation to eliminate or minimise potential harm or loss (risk) by doing all that is reasonably practicable to ensure safety. As a party in the supply chain, the best way to do this is to have safety management systems and controls in place, such as business practices, training, procedures and review processes that:

  • identify, assess, evaluate, and control risk
  • manage compliance with speed, fatigue, mass, dimension, loading and vehicle standards requirements through identified best practice
  • involve regular reporting, including to executive officers
  • document or record actions taken to manage safety.

These changes align Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws more closely with workplace health and safety laws.

The aim of CoR is to make sure everyone in the supply chain shares responsibility for ensuring breaches of the HVNL do not occur. Under CoR laws if you are named as a party in the chain of responsibility and you exercise (or have the capability of exercising) control or influence over any transport task, you have a responsibility to ensure the HVNL is complied with.

The law recognises that multiple parties may be responsible for offences committed by the drivers and operators of heavy vehicles. A person may be a party in the supply chain in more than one way. For example they may have duties as the employer, the operator and the consigner of goods. Legal liability applies to all parties for their actions or inactions.

Who are parties in the supply chain?

The parties in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle are:

  • an employer of a driver
  • a prime contractor for a vehicle if the vehicles driver is self-employed
  • an operator of the vehicle
  • a scheduler for the vehicle
  • a loading manager for any goods in the vehicle
  • a loader and/or unloader of a vehicle
  • a consignor of any goods for transport by the vehicle
  • a consignee of any goods in the vehicle
  • a loader and/or unloader of any goods in the vehicle.

When could CoR apply?

Some examples include:

  • heavy vehicle driver breaches of fatigue management requirements or speed limits
  • heavy vehicle driver breaches of mass, dimension, or loading requirements
  • where any instructions, actions or demands to parties in the supply chain causes or contributes to an offence under the HVNL.

That includes anything done, or not done (directly or indirectly) that has an impact on compliance, for example:

  • schedulers whose business practices place unrealistic timeframes on drivers which cause them to exceed their work rest options
  • loading managers whose business practices, including loading/unloading times, cause the driver to exceed the speed limit.

In a prosecution, the courts may consider the actions of each party in the supply chain. This includes what measures those parties have in place to prevent breaches of the HVNL occurring. Each party in the chain must demonstrate to the Court that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention or show the court that there were no steps they could reasonably be expected to have taken to prevent the contravention.