The Heavy Vehicle National Laws (HVNL) are changing on 1 October 2018. This means that requirements around Chain of Responsibility will also change. This impacts everyone in the supply chain – drivers, employers, contractors, vehicle operators, loaders or unloaders of vehicles and consignees.
The changes to the laws mean that all parties in the supply chain, including primary producers, must reduce risks related to the safety of transport tasks.
National Chain of Responsibility legislation has been in place since 2005. Under the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws, complying with transport laws is a shared responsibility and all parties in the road transport supply chain are responsible for preventing breaches. 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.
Currently, parties in the chain are usually held responsible only once a breach by a driver has been detected. The laws will still only apply to activities that a person or business has responsibility for and could influence. No-one will be liable for breaches they cannot control.
As a primary producer, any time you send or receive goods using a heavy vehicle with a gross vehicle mass of more than 4.5 tonnes, regardless of whether that vehicle is yours or someone else’s, you become part of the supply chain. You therefore have a shared safety management responsibility to prevent breaches of the law.
The responsibility is similar to the “general duties” provisions under existing workplace health and safety laws. If you are doing everything that is reasonably able to be done to identify, assess, reduce or remove safety risks related to your transport activities, you are likely to be complying with the law.
Your main duty as a primary producer under the legislation is to ensure that your conduct does not contribute to unsafe practices by a transporter.
You should avoid working with companies that are known to have a poor safety and compliance reputation and instead seek out companies with a good reputation and demonstrated understanding of safety practices.
Primary producers have key responsibilities under the laws to ensure:
- They know what and how much is loaded onto the vehicle, how the weight is distributed and how the load is restrained
- That the vehicle is fit for purpose and legally able to be used on a road
- That the driver, who may be you, is not tired and, by completing your work is not placed in a position where they work longer than they are allowed by the law
- That you understand the safety risks that your activities pose to the transport task – including packing goods for transport, scheduling travel and delivery times, and the impacts of delays in loading and unloading trucks
- You avoid requests, instructions, requirements or demands that may influence the driver to speed or drive while fatigued -whether written in a contract or made verbally
- Stock or loads are ready to load on time so a driver is not unduly delayed or pressured to speed or exceed fatigue hours
- Safe access, while on your property, for the heavy vehicles and advise drivers of any relevant local knowledge ie overhead power lines
- Consultation with transporters and other parties in the chain when setting timeframes for pick-up and delivery
- The transporter obtains all necessary permits and schedules the journey to meet legal requirements, particularly if it is an oversized load
In most circumstances, you will not have control or influence over what happens when the goods leave your property and you will not be liable if your conduct did not encourage or cause any breaches, for example, speeding.
Under the amended laws, there are new penalties for breaches of the safety duty. The maximum fines are similar to fines under workplace health and safety laws.
If you’re the driver of a vehicle, you could be penalised for breaches relating to fatigue, speed, mass, dimension, loading (including restraint of loads) and vehicle standards. If one of your employees or a transport contractor is moving your goods, you may be investigated under CoR for your part in any heavy vehicle offence they commit.
Fines can only be imposed by a court, not by issuing an infringement notice. Courts consider numerous factors when deciding penalties including previous offences and positive steps that were taken to ensure safety. Maximum fines are a guide and only ever imposed for the worst examples of an offence.
Not knowing the law and the obligations it places on you is not an excuse. You may face significant penalties for non-compliance.
As a party in the supply chain, you should have a safety management system and controls in place, such as business practices, training, procedures and review processes to enable the identification and assessment of risks, managing compliance with speed, fatigue, mass, dimension, loading and vehicle standards, and documenting or recording actions taken to manage safety.
More information is available on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website.
Jim is a primary producer who meets a contracted truck driver, Bill, on his farm at 7am to load cattle. While the men are loading the cattle, Jim observes that Bill is yawning frequently and complaining about the long hours he is required to work to meet the demands of his employer. Bill also appears quite relaxed about the weight of the cattle and squeezes a few more in, tipping over the weight limit of the truck.
What are Jim’s obligations?
The primary producer is not required to assess a driver for fatigue, but because Jim has noticed Bill is tired and complaining about rest, he should refuse to load the vehicle and take other practical steps such as offering Bill a place to rest or contacting his manager to advise that Bill should not be on the road.
As the loader of the produce, it is Jim’s responsibility to advise the transporter of the weight with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Both Jim and Bill will be held responsible for breaching the law by knowingly over-loading a vehicle.