PM: Have recent changes in the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) regulations affected your approach to compliance?
JB: It’s just like the Health, Work and Safety law – you need to do risk assessment. After looking internally at our business I was prompted to look at our sub-contractors and find what they were doing to identify any gaps in the compliance and safety loops.
PM: Where did you start?
JB: We used the NHVR’s gap assessment tool to assess our sub-contractors and some were a bit scared at first. I said let’s just look at what you have got and we can go on from there and work together to achieve a good outcome.
PM: Why look at the sub-contractors first?
JB: That’s a really good point. I’m working on our own business all day every day so we’re constantly addressing our own compliance and can be confident that we are progressing in the right direction. But sub-contractors can be a bit of an unknown. We went to them with the view to help them identify what their gaps in compliance were. When you have an audit normally you get corrective actions but in the first round of audits it was more about what are the recommendations that could help them in their own businesses because that also essentially protects us.
PM: Were you surprised at some of the findings?
JB: The size of the companies seems to reflect the thoroughness of the procedures that are in place. The biggest issue we have had across every single sub-contractor that we audited was that although most have good procedures in place some people aren’t actually following them. It’s really important when you have procedures in place to close the loop. They may not understand that it is necessary to, for example, check work diary pages. People aren’t doing that. They just assume that the drivers are correct all the time. It can also be as basic as checking if a driver has a valid licence.
PM: How do you approach vehicle defects?
JB: We’re fortunate most of our yard staff have a mechanical background and can identify obvious defects such a bald tyres. If they find something I’ll email the sub-contractor and ask for their driver training records as proof that their driver has been trained properly including vehicle checking. I’ll ask for copies of the pre-start checks for the past few days. Some of those conversations aren’t always pleasant but I don’t apologise for that. They are risking their business as well as ours. We cannot allow defective vehicles to leave our premises so items like faulty tyres need to be fixed onsite.
PM: What about the situation where the driver doesn’t even have a visual on how the truck is loaded?
JB: We encourage our drivers to be proactive and seek confirmation on weights and load restraint. We also encourage them to call myself or one of our own allocators for advice. If there’s an issue we’ll take the situation out of his hands and deal with the consignor.
PM: How should a driver handle missing a time slot due to being held up in non-typically heavy traffic?
JB: First, don’t speed. Communication is vital in our industry, so I suggest ringing the receiving company and don’t leave the driver to get there and find that he’s actually unable to get onto the site.
PM: Any tips on educating staff?
JB: Make sure you have flow charts. We have a lot of people coming into our industry for who English is not their first language. If we can engage with people and understand their culture and not just say this is how we do it in Australia, we’ll get better results. We want it to be easy for people to succeed and if we are struggling to find drivers we need to find a way to engage with people so we can get better people on our roads.
PM: Is CoR being taken seriously enough?
JB: People induct drivers and other staff into their business but they don’t tend to induct management. It seems almost casual. We need to make sure that those things are done properly.
PM: Any final advice?
JB: Read, read, read. If you’re not reading information that’s coming through about the new laws you’re kidding yourself. Subscribe to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator newsletters and join an industry association. You cannot put your head in the sand with CoR. I don’t know how I can make it plainer than that. You just have to do it because if you don’t you will end up with real problems. You need to be picking up on vehicle faults and you need to look at the fault reports and determine if there is a pattern. Question what the transport manager is doing about it. I’d rather do that than have to front somebody’s bereaved partner and say we didn’t take the very best care of the driver on the day.