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Geoff Crouch

Innocent until proven guilty

November 2018

Many years of advocacy by the Australian Trucking Association and our members has finally resulted in people in the trucking industry gaining the same rights as other Australians. They are now innocent of chain of responsibility offences till proven guilty.

In NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, people in the trucking industry chain of responsibility were assumed to be guilty of many offences and had to prove their innocence in court.

This legal assumption conflicted with everything Australians believe about how the legal system should work.

An important part of the 1 October reforms to the Heavy Vehicle National Law is that people accused of chain of responsibility offences are now innocent till proven guilty. In addition, there is now a strong general safety duty on everyone in the road freight chain of responsibility, including customers, the extension of chain of responsibility to maintenance and repairs, and massively increased maximum penalties.

There’s a personal due diligence obligation on business directors and executives, so they can’t ignore potential safety issues.

With the support of the Australian Government and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Australian Logistics Council have developed a master code of practice under the law.

We developed the master code to provide trucking businesses and industry customers with guidance about how to comply with the law, manage risks and improve safety.

Under the law, courts may refer to the code as evidence of what is known about a hazard or risk, risk assessment or risk control, and may rely on the code to determine what is reasonably practicable.

Businesses don’t have to use the code.

They can comply with the law in a different way, but their approach must provide a standard of safety or protection equivalent to or higher than the standard required in the code.

The ATA’s best-practice accreditation system, TruckSafe, will implement the master code to help members comply with the changes and make sure they’re covered.

The ATA and our member associations have campaigned for these reforms since 2012 as part of our plan to improve truck safety and eliminate prescriptive red tape, but we are not going to stop now. The work on reforming the rest of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) must continue, starting with the prescriptive work and rest hours for drivers and the unsatisfactory road access arrangements for trucks.

The forthcoming review of the HVNL needs to radically reduce the complexity of the work and rest hours, which now take up more than 140 pages.

It needs to add flexibility for operators who use technology or other measures such as demonstrated risk identification and management to reduce their risk. And it needs to stop penalising drivers who make minor mistakes in filling out their diaries.

I’m pleased to say the NHVR is listening to these concerns. It held a very successful fatigue forum in Sydney in October, which I believe will be a key step toward improving the flexibility of the law.

The other top priority needs to be reducing the red tape involved in getting truck access permits. The Oversize Overmass (OSOM) review is a great start, but the whole of the access decision-making process needs to be fixed.

The trucking industry is essential to the Australian economy and is home to 50,000 operators and 211,500 staff. We need modern national laws that help us become safer and more productive, not the tangle of red tape we have today.

For more information on the master code or to become TruckSafe accredited, visit www.trucksafe.com.au

Geoff Crouch
Chair,
Australian Trucking Association

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