Stronger links in the chain
New provisions that the road transport industry must operate under in relation to the Chain of Responsibility components of the Heavy Vehicle National Law came into effect on 1 October this year. Operators have no need to feel isolated in their compliance requirements as support is at hand in the form of the industry Master Code of Practice
Obligations under the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation are not new and the latest additional elements have seen a significant shift in focus away from the driver with responsibilities now applicable across a wider spectrum.
The amendments impart that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain now has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities.
The updated legislation extends the concept of a positive primary safety duty on all parties in the chain and has removed the reverse onus of proof that presumed guilt rather than innocence.
That particular situation has long been considered unfair and onerous by the industry and it is refreshing that the rules of natural justice will now apply and it will be incumbent upon authorities to prove any cases brought against individuals and corporations.
This also expands the investigative framework of various authorities in order for a more comprehensive examination of the activities within the entire supply chain.
“These reforms recognise that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain has a duty to ensure safety,” says Sal Petroccitto, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) CEO.
“The best way to do this is to have safety management systems and controls in place, such as business practices, training and procedures.”
In a demonstration of industry collaboration, Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) joined forces in a project to develop a Master Code of Practice that can be used by all supply chain participants that have CoR responsibilities to manage the risks associated with their own operations.
The team putting the Code together is headed by industry expert Peter Elliott and has spent more than a year in developing the Code, which is intended to not just produce improved safety outcomes but also improved efficiencies for transport operators and their clients.
The main elements of the Code are as applicable to operators with a single vehicle as they are to the biggest of Australian fleets. The Code is not intended to be an additional administration burden and is designed to encompass existing compliance systems.
Significant government funding was made available to support the development of the Code yet it is not a product of government itself and has been put together by people with genuine interests in its outcome and will be couched in language that is easy to understand and implement.
No system works without a degree of enforcement and the challenge still exists where the interpretation of legislation differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Fortunately the majority of organisations charged with ensuring compliance recognise that national consistency is a benefit to all and the adoption of the Code by operators, large and small, is likely to deliver a range of benefits.
The Master Code of Practice forms an important pathway to compliance and those using it will undoubtedly be on safer ground but it can’t be seen as a ‘get out of jail free’ card and nor should it be left mouldering on the shelf.
The over-riding point is to implement the applicable elements of the Code and not merely pay lip service. The concept of the Code is to facilitate a best practice safety culture across individual operations and the parties they deal with throughout the entire length of the logistics chain.
Industry associations and government bodies including the NHVR and NTC (National Transport Commission) continue to make serious efforts at getting the CoR message through all levels of what can be large and complex organisations as well as individual operators who by the nature of their business may be quite isolated geographically or socially.
Standing up to a customer who either doesn’t understand or want to comply with safety legislation isn’t always an easy thing to do.
But clients who insist upon contract terms incorporating penalties for late delivery could be found to be encouraging speeding when often delays created by activities at their own facilities are the cause of pressure on drivers. Adoptees of the Code will have a mutual understanding of their obligations and rights in relation to CoR.
The Code will help translate the requirements of the Heavy Vehicle National Law into a framework of known risk types, risk assessment information, and risk controls applicable to parties having CoR obligations.
It will help to provide clarity for industry, for investigators, and for courts regarding the known risks around road transport operations, and the best practice response measures that may be installed to minimise those risks.
Safety can no longer be accepted as merely a priority, it must be considered as a core value of every operation.