With October now becoming a distant memory, the reformed Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is now well and truly enforced.
Under the reforms, everyone involved in the transport function of a heavy vehicle has a non-transferable positive duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of their transport activities related to the vehicle. This responsibility is otherwise known as the Chain of Responsibility (CoR).
As a party in the chain the recommended way to control this is to incorporate CoR requirements into safety management systems. Risks aligned with Heavy Vehicles involve:
- Vehicle condition;
- Fatigue management;
- Drug and alcohol;
- Mass management, and;
A person may have multiple roles in the chain and liability can apply to their actions, inactions and demands on other parties in the chain. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Executive Officer: You are a person who is concerned or takes part in the management of the business.
- Consignor: You request an operator of the heavy transport vehicle (directly, indirectly or through their representative) to transport the goods by road.
- Consignee: You receive the goods after road transport (but not merely the unloader).
- Employer: You employ someone to drive a heavy vehicle (including casual, permanent, part time, contract driving and labour hire.
- Prime Contractor: You engage a driver/s to drive a heavy vehicle under a contract for services.
- Transport Operator: You control or direct the use of a heavy vehicle.
These parties in the chain can be held liable for breaches of the HVNL despite having no direct role in driving or operating a heavy vehicle. If your actions, inactions or demands cause or contribute to an offence, you can be held legally accountable.
To demonstrate your diligence in this regard, follow the same logic applied to your obligations as officer’s under WHS legislation. Ask yourself these six questions:
- Do I know my obligations?
- Do I understand the risks?
- Have I provided adequate resources?
- Do I respond to incidents and hazards in a timely manner?
- Do I enforce these requirements when breaches occur?
- Can I provide evidence?
A Path to CoR Safety
The extensive changes to the HVNL mean that all parties in the chain need to:
- Familiarise themselves with the new legislated primary duties;
- Educate management and workers on the new primary duties and the severe penalties for non-compliance;
- Consider the risks associated with their transport services? Are the current documented management systems and practices sufficient to manage those risks?
- Understand the definitions of ‘business practices’ and ‘Due Diligence’ as it relates to ‘operating policies and procedures’. Parties in the chain must sufficiently maintain a safety management system which includes details of contractual responsibilities with other parties in the chain.
- Exercise Due Diligence – this forms the basis for a defence of any claim made under the HVNL or Work Health & Safety (WHS) Acts.