A chain is only as good as its weakest link. With the changes in Chain of Responsibility (COR) regulations, which come into effect early next year, senior executives beyond your compliance manager will face increased scrutiny in the role they play in their organisation’s safety culture.
The existing legislation already gave anyone with influence in the transport chain responsibility for not breaching Heavy Vehicle National Law. What’s changed is how authorities will view liability and pursue action. In a shift away from reactive responses, prosecution no longer hinges on an actual breach, only a foreseeable risk.
The new wording says that anyone within the COR with primary duties has a “due diligence” obligation to eliminate and minimise public risks by doing everything reasonable to ensure transport related activities are safe and it’s hard not to wonder how far “but I left it up to my compliance manager” will fly in court. A safety culture comes from the top down and with increased fines and jail time on the table, now is the perfect time for the most senior executives to set the right tone and ensure they have the right visibility within their organisation.
The delay in the legislation gives operators the opportunity to get compliant, so now is the opportunity to work with your compliance manager about where you are and what needs to be done. If you transport or receive goods as part of your business, you need to ensure you are doing all you can “so far as is reasonably practicable”, that is you are doing everything that is reasonably able to be done to identify, assess and remove any public risk as a party in the chain of responsibility.
Getting informed is just the first step, now it’s about action. Taking a proactive role in the goings on within a supply chain is essential and this means making sure everyone under the COR knows about the changes and is aware of the steps needed for improvement. You need to ensure that your systems provide objective evidence of compliance on a consignment by consignment basis, i.e. Every load. Every vehicle. Every person. Every time! Talk to your compliance manager about what tools will make meeting your obligations easier, be it GPS tracking to ensure safe speeds are maintained or electronic work diaries (EWDs) as a supplement to your paper work diaries to improve accuracy. It’s essential for peace of mind that drivers take regular breaks and EWDs make it easier for them to calculate when they are due. They accurately display up to date information that can be viewed remotely, so if there are any issues they can be addressed as quickly as possible.
For true transparency to exist between executives and their supply chain, it’s more important than ever that there’s open and honest communication between higher ups and fleet workers. When it comes to safety, there’s no room for the scary big boss whose underlings are too afraid to speak up. Outlining existing or potential issues and finding solutions will not only improve efficiency in the COR, it ensures that everyone is protected from potential prosecution in the future. All relevant parties must understand why things need to happen the way they do and provide a range of ways for employees and contractors to identify and report on risks without fear of repercussions.
Regular reviews of safety procedures will prevent slip ups and allow for easy adaptation to any future changes in legislation. For this to happen, you must make sure you are collecting the information that will guide these decisions, so you are reacting to what actually happens, not what people think is happening. You should do this without creating cumbersome additional work that eats into time that could be used to grow your business. Automated data collection is invaluable in getting the insights you need quickly, without fuss.
Having a supply chain act like a well-oiled machine is not only functional but creates peace of mind to everyone involved. Changes don’t end at just complying with new laws, they are an ongoing necessity to ensure everyone’s safety. Regular meetings and training sessions are fundamental to keep everyone, including executives, up to code. Investment in training is an investment in your company’s future.
Things don’t always go right and no one wants to be thrown under the bus (or truck) with the new COR regulations, it’s essential for decision makers to be more active than ever. 2018 might seem like a lifetime away but that doesn’t mean you should let it sneak up on you. It’s better to get informed and use the time available to make sure everything is ready. Visibility is the key to keeping the chains connected and making sure everyone is compliant, safe and productive.
It all starts with good leaders.