GETTING TO GRIPS WITH CHAIN OF RESPONSIBILITY


Understanding CORIt’s no secret that Aussie truck drivers have copped a bad rap for a very long time.

It’s a matter of perspective as to whether or not that’s justified, but when something goes wrong on our roads, and it involves a truck, it’s very rare that the tabloid press will come out and have a swing on behalf of the truck driver involved.

Unfortunately truckies are the thin edge of the wedge, and the broader public doesn’t often recognise the conga-line of time pressures, deadlines and financial constraints stretching into the distance behind every truck run.

The trucking industry is constantly working to improve its safety standards however, and Australia’s Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation has come along in leaps and bounds.

As explained in our previous introductory blog, CoR legislation recognises that undesirable incidents involving trucks can be influenced and affected by the actions of all parties involved in the transport chain, not just drivers.

These incidents include everything from driver injury due to improperly exiting a vehicle, to a lost load caused by improper restraints, or – worst of all – a fatality.

Education

A recent push by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) aims to educate and bolster public awareness of everyone’s responsibilities under CoR legislation.

Announced last week by Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Darren Chester, the NHVR has released a series of fact sheets and podcasts covering everything from responsibilities under law, to breeches, penalties, loading and restraints.

The new material includes the following fact sheets:

There are also three podcasts to download:

According to Minister Chester, the new information is aimed at educating the whole industry on an often misinterpreted concept.

“This new material will help make sure that all parties understand their responsibilities and how to go about preventing breaches of mass, dimensions, loading, speed, restraint and fatigue laws,” he told media.

“There have been cases where poor business practices, delays with loading, or incorrectly packaged goods have led to pressure on drivers and increased the risk of an accident.”

Understanding

Anne Beesley – Manager of Legislative Policy Heavy Vehicle Compliance for the National Transport Commission (NTC) – said the release of educational material is an important step in raising awareness, especially for industry stakeholders directly affected by it.

“Not all of those to whom chain of responsibility applies understand it. Driver surveys by the NTC indicate there is increasing awareness of chain of responsibility – but some people may not be aware of the evidence about its effectiveness,” Anne said.

Those surveys also revealed some other concerns with CoR legislation and implementation – issues the NTC is currently looking into.

“We also hear that the current law can be complex and costly to comply with. And some people find the current obligations inconsistent and that the law is too prescriptive.

“There are also concerns the law is not being enforced as consistently as many would like and that enforcement is reactive and dependent on some harm, incident or injury occurring before enforcement activities can be undertaken,” she said.

“The current COR reforms seek to address many of these issues.”

Reform

There is broad agreement from industry and government on the need to further improve chain of responsibility.

In June 2016 Australia’s federal state and territory transport ministers signed off on amendments to the Heavy Vehicle National Law, implementing a primary duties approach to chain of responsibility.

This legislation is currently before the Queensland Parliament and, depending on when the legislation is passed, is likely to come into effect in mid-2018, after a twelve month implementation period.

“Reforms to the legislation aim to reduce regulatory burden, improve consistency and clarity around responsibilities, and to better align CoR with work health safety. They will allow better targeted and proactive enforcement focused on underlying and systemic safety risks” Anne said.

“Not only will this benefit compliant and safe operators but it will also ensure enforcement agencies will no longer need to wait for a crash to occur before taking enforcement action.”