Changes to the “Chain of Responsibiloity”: It doesn’t matter if you actually drive the truck.

From 1 October 2018, a number of amendments to the Heavy Vehicle National Law 2012 (HVNL) came into effect. These amendments will significantly impact the existing ‘chain of responsibility’ (CoR) duties and the overall regulatory framework relating to the heavy vehicle transport supply and logistics chain.

The purpose of these changes is essentially to improve safety in the industry, particularly by sharing the responsibility for safety to all parties involved in the supply chain. It imposes a positive duty on each CoR party to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the party’s transport activities relating to the vehicle.

Each party must, so far as is reasonably practicable eliminate public risks and, to the extent it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate public risks, minimise the public risks.

A party must also ensure its conduct does not directly or indirectly cause or encourage:

• the driver of the heavy vehicle to contravene the HVNL;

• the driver of the heavy vehicle to exceed a speed limit applying to the driver; or

• another person, including another party in the CoR, to contravene the HVNL.

The amendments shift liability from the traditional owner/operator paradigm to a shared responsibility on all parties in a supply chain who have control or influence over a heavy vehicle transport job.

These include:

• an employer of the driver;

• a prime contractor for the driver;

• an operator of the vehicle;

• a scheduler for the vehicle;

• a consignor or consignee;

• a packer of any goods in the vehicle;

• a loading manager for any goods in the vehicle; and

• a loader or unloader of any goods in the vehicle.

Prosecution for any alleged breach will consider the actions of each party involved, including any of the above parties. The amendments also impose a due diligence obligation on executive officers of CoR entities to ensure their entity complies with the safety duty under the HVNL.

This obligation may consequently expose executives to personal liability in some circumstances.

There are also a number of specific prohibitions on asking, directing or requiring a party in the CoR to do something that an individual knows, or ought reasonably to know, would have the effect of causing a driver to exceed a speed limit, or drive while fatigued or in breach of a work/rest hours requirements.

We suggest that parties involved in the industry, including executives of CoR entities, seek advice where necessary to understand their obligations under the new laws.

Steps should also be taken to ensure entities comply with the changes, including actively identifying, assessing and controlling hazards and safety risks and continually monitoring and reviewing control measures to ensure enforcement practices remain in place.