Changes to Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation are fast approaching. In October, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) will be amended to make every party in the transport supply chain responsible for safety. This change will have a significant impact on any business that works with heavy vehicles, whether you’re in transport or another industry, like agriculture or construction. Every link in the chain now has an obligation to minimise harm and do everything possible to ensure safety. What does this mean in practical terms? To avoid a hefty fine or penalty, you need to get prepared.
Here are 5 things to consider over the next few months.
Understand Your Obligations
Everyone has different obligations, but you’re only responsible for what you can control or influence. The first step is understanding your role, so you’re not exposed to risk. For example, if you work as a consignee, you’ll need to ensure you’re not holding a driver up and putting them at risk of working longer hours or speeding to get the job done faster. But you won’t be directly responsible for managing their time – that’s up to the operator and driver. Similarly, if you work in agriculture, you won’t be directly responsible for driver safety. But if you’re a farmer using heavy vehicles to transport goods, it is up to you to check the vehicle is loaded safely. The important thing to realise is that all parties with influence over driver safety may now be held responsible under the law.
Do a Risk Assessment
CoR and compliance is all about identifying, evaluating and reducing risk. You need to have a risk register in place covering all the things that could put your employees and business in danger. This might include mass, fatigue management, load restraint and vehicle maintenance. It’s also important to assess any risks currently causing an issue for the business. So, if your drivers have received multiple speeding fines in the last few months, it’s clear they’re driving too fast and putting themselves and others at risk on the road. This means speed must be addressed in your risk assessment. Include each hazard as a line item, followed by all the controls, policies and procedures you have in place to manage them. If you’re starting from scratch, check out the gaps in your business or read more about risk management here.
Update Safety Policies
Once you’ve done your risk assessment, it’s time to update your safety policies to make sure they’re totally up to date (or creating new policies if you haven’t got them in place already). Make sure you’ve got clear rules and procedures for managing each of the risks you’ve identified. The best way to do this is with a safety management system that covers business practices, training, procedures and review processes. And once it’s in place and up-to-date, all relevant employees need to be educated so they know exactly what’s required of them – especially if there have been any changes.
It’s not just about the action you take. Doing nothing about a risk or only responding after an incident has already occurred won’t be good enough under CoR. You need to provide evidence that demonstrates you’re proactively managing risks and alerting drivers to possible breaches before they happen. This is where telematics becomes an invaluable tool. It provides precise, up-to-date data on behaviour, driver hours, vehicle mass and more, so you can track safety trends and address issues. You can also set up automatic alerts when a driver is about to exceed the speed limit, needs to take a rest break or is driving a truck that’s due for a service. On top of this, you need to show a consistent process of tackling safety. Simply collecting the data isn’t sufficient – it’s about how you use it.
Monitor and Review
As part of this ongoing process, regular reviews of your safety system will help you identify any worrying trends and update new risks or changes to process. Accurate reporting on these reviews, as well as any instances where you’ve identified and addressed a breach, will also show the NHVR that you’re doing everything in your power to keep people safe. Managing all this on paper is cumbersome, not to mention time-consuming, so capturing it electronically will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
Compliance can be challenging, but at the end of the day, the CoR is there to make sure everyone gets home safely. No matter what part you play in the supply chain, safety practices need to be ingrained in the business, and applied to every job, load and driver – every single day.