Changes to the Chain of Responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law are expected to commence on the 1st of October 2018.

That means transport operators need to be ready, and there’s exactly 3 months until the new provisions are in place.

Citycover’s Transport Insurance expert, Paul McGregor specialises in Transport and Business Insurance, and understands the full implications the Chain of Responsibility will have on Transport operators. After reading this article, should you wish to review your Insurance policies now would be a great time to do so before this new legislation takes place.

Who is in the Chain, and therefore who will be affected by the changes?

The following parties are part of the “Chain of Responsibility”:

  • A driver’s employer
  • A prime contractor, if a driver is self employed
  • A vehicle operator
  • A scheduler of a vehicle
  • A consignor and consignee of goods in /on a vehicle
  • A packer of goods in/on a vehicle
  • A loading manager
  • A loader
  • An unloader

What constitutes a “Heavy Vehicle”? A “heavy vehicle” has a GVM or ATM of more than 4.5 tonnes.

Therefore ALL Australian businesses that make use of heavy vehicles to transport goods, whether directly or indirectly, are potentially consignors and consignees and therefore part of the chain of responsibility. The reach of this legislation is therefore significant and extends beyond those parties directly involved in providing transport services.

The changes were necessary to address:

  • Inconsistencies with other national safety laws, such as the Model Work Health and Safety Act
  • Penalties that do not adequately respond to offending that results in death or serious injury
  • Complaints that the current regime is confusing and lengthy and there are “too many offences”
  • Need for a system that is not reactive, but proactive
  • Look to promote a safety culture, not a tick the box approach

An underlying principle in the new regime is that the safety of transport activities is a shared responsibility of all parties in the chain of responsibility, however the extent of a party’s responsibility depends on the person’s role, the nature of the risk that results from their transport activities and the person’s capacity to manage that risk.

In order to fulfil the due diligence obligation Directors and Managers will need to take proactive steps to keep up to date with knowledge about safe practices and ensure that resources are available and processes are in place to manage risk, respond to incidents and to verify that applicable processes are followed.

What do you need to do now?

  • Become familiar with the new legislative regime
  • Educate Management and staff as to the new primary duties and the severe penalties associated with non-compliance
  • Identify and consider the risks associated with their business and ways of removing or minimising those risks
  • Consider what policies and practices are currently in place to manage those risks and what further steps could and should be taken to manage the risks
  • Consult with other parties in the chain to manage relevant risks
  • Analyse any incidents or near misses and take steps to ensure that any practices and procedures are modified to prevent future incidents
  • Consider risk management practices set out in industry codes of practice, reputable technical standards and industry publications
  • Have contracts that document “who is responsible for what”
  • To discharge the duties imposed, ad hoc unwritten and informal policies and activities that are not audited or supervised are highly unlikely to be adequate
  • Parties in the chain will also need to properly and specifically document policies and procedures and contractual responsibilities with other parties in the chain and put in place measures to ensure that policies and practices are followed.

There are 3 months exactly until major penalties apply for non-compliance, and any party within the chain can be held liable.

Visit the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) website where information is freely available for use.

Information on the Chain of Responsibility has been supplied by Cooper Grace Ward, a leading Australian Law Firm based in Brisbane. For further information regarding your Insurance implications, or if you have the right Insurance cover, speak to our Transport expert, Paul McGregor on (07) 3270 1500.