In 2020, International Cargo Express implemented a robust Chain of Responsibility Policy and supporting Procedures related to fatigue, speed, mass, dimension and loading assurance, and safety systems and controls.
New statistics released by Safe Work Australia reveal that transport, postal & warehousing is the second deadliest industry in the country, with road transport listed as a priority industry. Now more than ever it is critical to ensure your supply chain partner has the right mechanisms in place to protect not only your cargo, but the people and drivers that handle it!
Chain of Responsibility – A Summary
1. Everybody in a heavy vehicle supply chain is exposed to legal liability for breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law – the penalties are substantial.
2. You are required to take a proactive approach to managing risk in your supply chain.
3. You should develop a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS) and regularly communicate with everybody in the supply chain to ensure compliance.
What is the Chain of Responsibility?
CoR refers to a national law that makes the compliance of heavy vehicle safety law a shared responsibility between all parties in the supply chain.
Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Regulations, you may be legally held responsible for safety breaches (including both consignees and consignors) even if you are not personally driving a truck. The law recognises that off-road parties have a fundamental role in ensuring road safety.
The Heavy Vehicle National Regulator (HVNR) is the government agency responsible for administering the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) for heavy vehicles weighing over 4.5 tonnes (gross vehicle mass). There are also five associated regulations including a general regulation, and those relating to fatigue management, registration, vehicle standards, mass, dimension and loading.
Whilst the law is called a ‘National Law’, it is enforceable through State and Territory legislation. The HVNL is not yet applicable in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. However, the law still applies when WA and NT vehicles cross into other jurisdictions where the HVNL is in force.
The “Primary Duty”
Since late 2018, the HVNL has imposed a ‘primary duty’ on every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain – the duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the party’s transport activities relating to the vehicle.
This means that you will be proactively required to eliminate public risks (or minimise them when it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate them) and ensure your conduct does not cause or encourage a heavy vehicle driver (or another person) to contravene the HVNL, or a driver to exceed a speed limit.
Failing to comply with the duty may lead to penalties of up to $300,000 or 5 years’ imprisonment for an individual, or up to $3,000,000 for a corporation.
Who is included in the CoR supply chain?
Parties in the CoR supply chain include:
- The employer of the driver;
- The primary contractor of the driver;
- The vehicle operator and the scheduler;
- A loading manager;
- The loader and unloader, including the packers, of cargo; and
- Consignors and consignees of the goods being carried.
A duty of care also extenders to managers, corporations, partners and even Executive Officers like Directors. Executive Officers are required to exercise “due diligence” to ensure their company complies with their safety duty.
As freight forwarders, ICE is recognised as a consignor and a consignee, hence we have a responsibility for ensuring goods that we move do so in a safe manner.
What steps are “reasonably practicable”?
Steps that are reasonably practicable may include:
- Identifying, assessing and controlling the risks in your supply chain;
- Regularly checking the control measures you’ve put in place;
- Developing a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS);
- Regularly reporting to Executive Officers on the state of your supply chain;
- Consulting and co-ordinating with other parties in the supply chain – communication is key; and
- Keeping meticulous records of action you take to manage safety.
What is “due diligence” under CoR?
The new laws introduced in 2018 mean that Executive Officers of companies, like Directors, can be personally liable if they fail to exercise due diligence to ensure their company complies with the safety duty under the HVNL.
This means that you, as an Executive Officer, will be required to:
- Keep up to date with the safe conduct of your company’s transport activities;
- Gain an understanding of your company’s transport activities, including its hazards and risks;
- Ensure your company uses appropriate resources to eliminate or minimise those hazards and risks; and
- Ensure your company implements processes to eliminate those hazards and risks, as well as receiving and responding to information about them in a timely way.
Below, we’ll outline some important case studies you should be aware of involving the Chain of Responsibility.
Case study: First prosecution under new CoR laws against Director
The NHVR has commenced a prosecution against a company for failing to comply with its safety duty, and its Director for failing to exercise due diligence. It is the first prosecution under the new laws introduced in 2018.
N Godfrey Haulage is alleged to have failed to comply with conditions of its fatigue management accreditation, forming part of the company’s primary safety duty.
“We know that drivers are constantly put under pressure at the depot or the loading dock,” said NHVR Executive Director of statutory compliance Ray Hassall. “We want to hold the people responsible accountable”.
Case study: Prosecution for failing to restrain a load
The HVNR also recently commenced a prosecution against an SA-based manufacturing company, and an Executive Officer, for the incorrect restraint of a load on a trailer.
It is alleged the worker who did not restrain the load properly was not adequately trained in load restraint. They also had no relevant experience restraining loads on heavy vehicles.
Such an incident, according to the HVNR, “could have been prevented by proper safety education and risk management systems”.
Final tips – What you can do to comply with Chain of Responsibility
- If you’re involved in any moving, loading or unloading of goods, you must have the correct safety systems in place at your workplace.
- As an importer or exporter, it’s vital that your documentation accurately reflects the weights, dimensions and content of your cargo.
- Does urgency come before safety? If you find yourself pressuring your supplier to load more cargo than possible, or to arrive quicker than reasonable, remember – it’s your obligation to put the safety of others first. Stop and think about the impact of these actions.
Our specialists at ICE can help you navigate the CoR and get you in touch with a qualified CoR trainer. Contact us by leaving a comment below or giving us a call on 1300 227 461.