In mid 2018, the Heavy Vehicle National Law is being amended to make it clear every party in the supply chain has a “duty” to ensure safe practices. Everyone, from driver to executive officer, will have an obligation to eliminate and minimise risks by doing everything reasonable to ensure transport activities are safe.
These amendments will affect the operations of businesses across the entire country – not just the transport sector. Any business that utilises freight logistics services needs to make sure they understand chain of responsibility. Now is the time to consider how these new laws will affect your day-to-day operations, so that systems and practices can be put in place to ensure compliance.
What is Chain of Responsibility?
Chain of Responsibility laws are based on the notion that drivers and operators are not always the only party responsible for breaches to the Heavy Vehicle National Law. Breaches are often caused by the actions of others. Therefore, the aim of COR is to make sure everyone in the supply chain shares equal responsibility for ensuring breaches of the HVNL do not occur.
What this means in practice is that if you consign, pack, load or receive goods as part of your business, you could be held legally liable for breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law.
For example, if a driver is found to have broken the speed limit, or driven while fatigued, everyone who was responsible for requiring that driver to undertake a long journey in an unsafe manner could be prosecuted under the national law.
Amendments to Chain of Responsibility
The changes to COR laws have already been approved and are set to be implemented in mid 2018. These amendments will be incorporated into the HVNL and introduced in all Australian states and territories with the exception of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
1. New Primary Duty
Every participant in the COR will be under a non-transferable duty to ensure, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, the safety of that party’s transport activities relating a heavy vehicle. Each party also has a duty to ensure its conduct does not cause or encourage the driver or any other party to breach any COR Laws. This means that all parties must actively prevent breaches.
2. Executive Officer Liability
A duty will also be imposed on executive officers to exercise due diligence to ensure that a corporation complies with its duties under the amended HVNL. A breach of this duty may result in executive officers being held personally liable. It’s possible for executive officers to be held liable for breaching this duty, even when the corporation has not committed an actual offence.
New penalties will be introduced in line with the new primary duty. These include a maximum five years imprisonment, a $300,000 fine for individuals or a $3 million fine for corporations.
Whether an individual or a business has “done its best” to ensure compliance, will be judged in relation to what was reasonably practical for that particular business, rather than by a standardised checklist of reasonable steps.
You learn more about the coming amendments here.
How to Protect Yourself
The new primary duty law requires you to do all that is reasonably practical to ensure safety. If you do not do all that is reasonably practical, you leave yourself and your company exposed to risks along your supply chain.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator say 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.