Under the Chain of Responsibility (CoR), complying with transport law is a shared responsibility and all parties in the road transport supply chain are responsible for ensuring the safety of their transport activities. This approach recognises the effects of the actions, inactions and demands of off-the-road parties in the transport chain. Anybody, not just the driver – who has control over the transport task can be held responsible for breaches of road laws and may be legally liable.
You may be held legally liable for breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) if you consign, pack, load or receive goods within your business operation even if you may not have a direct role in driving a truck. Corporate entities, directors, partners and managers have a duty of care to the transport chain and are held accountable for the actions of people under their control. That is the Chain of Responsibility.
New Primary Duty laws in 2018
On the 1st of October 2018, the 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.
What is the aim of the CoR laws?
The aim of the laws is to ensure everyone in the transport supply chain shares responsibility for ensuring breaches to the HVNL do not occur. The onus is no longer on the driver but anyone that holds influence. If you are involved in the chain and you exercise (or have the capability of exercising) control over any transport task, you have a responsibility to ensure compliance to the HVNL. The CoR laws recognise that more than one person is responsible for offences committed by the operator of the heavy-vehicle. A person may be a third-party in the supply chain and still be liable.
What is the Chain? Who is part of it?
If you hold influence or able to make decisions, your actions or inactions may affect road transport operations meaning you are in the chain. If your role in the business involves you handling goods, loading/receiving, planning, dispatching, etc., wether you're directly employed by the transport company or a third-party (such as the customer), you are liable. Company directors and managers are implicated and if an offence is committed by your employees, or contractors, the offence could be treated as having been committed by both parties, regardless if it was without your consent or outside of your knowledge. The parties in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle are:
- company director, senior management
- an employer of a driver
- a prime contractor for a vehicle if the vehicles driver is self-employed
- an operator of the vehicle (driver)
- a scheduler/allocator for the vehicle
- a loading manager for any goods in the vehicle
- a loader and/or unloader of a vehicle (including any goods in the vehicle)
- a consignor/consignee of any goods for transport by the vehicle
Those within the transport chain must ensure the terms of consignment or contract will not result in, encourage, reward or provide an incentive for the driver or other party in the supply chain to break the HVNL. Any consignment or contract that requires a driver or anyone in the chain to break the law is illegal.
When could CoR apply?
Some examples of when the Chain of Responsibility could apply include:
- driver breaches fatigue management requirements
- driver breaches speed limits
- vehicle breaches mass or dimension limits
- loading requirements are violated
- vehicle is not maintained to roadworthy standards
- where any instructions to parties in the supply chain causes or contributes to an offence under the HVNL. This can include anything done or not done that impacts compliance, such as:
- third-parties who place unrealistic timeframes on the company
- schedulers who place unrealistic timeframes, which cause drivers to exceed their work rest hours
- loading managers whose business practices, including loading/unloading times, cause the unbalanced loading of the vehicle
What is the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL)?
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) administers one set of laws (the HVNL) for heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass, which consists of the Heavy Vehicle National Law and four sets of regulations. The law commenced on the 10 February 2014 in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. Each of these states passed a law that either adopts or duplicates the HVNL, with some modifications, as a law of that State or Territory.Although the HVNL has not commenced in Western Australia or the Northern Territory at this time, it still applies equally to vehicles from those jurisdictions when they cross the border where the HVNL applies. In some cases, drivers may also need to comply with certain aspects of the HVNL before they cross the border, for example fatigue work diary requirements.
Who is the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR)?
The NHVR is Australia’s independent regulator for all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass. Established in 2013, their vision is for a safe, efficient and productive heavy vehicle industry serving the needs of Australia by:
- minimising the compliance burden
- reducing duplication of and inconsistencies in heavy vehicle regulation across state and territory borders
- providing leadership and driving sustainable improvement to safety, productivity and efficiency outcomes.
What actions or behaviours are seen as influencing?
The influencing behaviours encompasses anyone who causes or influences a driver to break the Heavy Vehicle National Law. This could be through:
- unrealistically tight work schedules causing the driver to speed or undue pressure to deliver goods within a timeframe causing the driver to miss their fatigue work/rest hours
- a third-party exerting pressure to cause a driver to exceed the maximum gross weight limits to ensure all goods are delivered in a single delivery
- a transport manager who doesn't ensure all drivers credentials and licences are correct and up to date and allows an unlicensed driver to operate the incorrect heavy vehicle combination.
What are the penalties?
Courts can consider the actions of each persons role in the supply chain during prosecution. When an incident occurs, enforcement while work their way backwards from the event to determine the cause of an incident, right through to senior management and directors - all of whom may receive severe penalties and loss of the business' reputation. Courts and enforcement will measure what those parties involved have in place to prevent breaches of the HVNL occurring, which these individuals must demonstrate they took all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention or show there were no steps they could reasonably be expected to have taken to prevent the contravention.
How can I demonstrate that I am meeting the new Primary Duty requirements?
You must proactively monitor and manage driver behaviour, including compliance with speed, fatigue, mass, dimension, loading and vehicle standards requirements to ensure they meet both your company's safety policies and regulations to the CoR and HVNL. By installing a comprehensive compliance and GPS tracking system, you can determine exactly how your drivers are using work vehicles.Teletrac Navman's compliance solutions allow you to collate detailed telematics data to create reports on driver behaviour. You can address issues by evaluating drivers based on behaviours such as speeding, harsh braking or stop-sign violation. These insights allow you to benchmark fleet safety initiatives such as incentives and education programmes while demonstrating proactive risk management. Using an in-cab device as part of your tracking system provides the driver with the tools to manage their obligations to ensuring compliance. They are able to manage their work and rest hours, record mass declarations, complete vehicle pre-start checklists and more. With real-time alerting, drivers gain the ability to make better on road decisions.
How can I make sure my vehicles are safe to drive?
Using GPS fleet tracking to manage maintenance helps ensure that you are operating a roadworthy fleet. A connected vehicle includes sensors that monitor fault codes and alert you when repairs are required. This helps to stop small issues from becoming larger, more serious ones. Rather than setting a time-based maintenance schedule, you can set up reminders for servicing based on the actual distance vehicles have travelled.
NHVR, What is Chain of Responsibility, https://www.nhvr.gov.au/node/899
NHVR, What is the Heavy Vehicle National Law, https://www.nhvr.gov.au/law-policies/heavy-vehicle-national-law-and-regulations
*This FAQ is provided as a general guide only and does not cover everything in the law.