Urgent attention required for new Chain of Responsibility laws

The following is an excerpt from an article was published on 8th May 2017 by Travis Brooks-Garrett, partner at Freight & Trade Alliance.

“LAST year the Queensland Government passed the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016, to be incorporated into the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

This Act of Parliament from our northern state has a profound effect on the Chain of Responsibility requirements nationally with all states and territories, except Western Australia and the Northern Territory, covered under the changes. The amendments recast the duties and liabilities of consignor/consignees, schedulers and operators, loading managers, loaders and packers, unloaders, who are all considered to have a primary duty of care under the new legislations, with executive officers facing ‘due diligence’ obligations in ensuring compliance. Safety is no longer the exclusive domain of those responsible for the transport task. While industry was given an 18-month implementation period, it is a monumental shift and industry needs to be aware, and service providers need to start educating their clients and suppliers, before the new legislation takes full effect.

What does this mean in practical terms? As an importer, do my delivery requirements encourage my transport operator to speed or drive while fatigued? Have I ensured my loads are properly restrained? As a forwarder, have I provided reliable weight information to the transport operator? In the words of one wise Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) member, “there should be a focus on safety before any commercial considerations such as product damage or ease of unloading”.

With the change in requirements comes the changes to the penalty and compliance regimes, which are to be re-aligned to better reflect the existing OH&S legislation. Breaches may receive a maximum fine of $3m for a corporation, or a personal fine of $300,000 or a five-year imprisonment, or both. Commendably, the new laws will also introduce “enforceable undertakings” as a compliance option, meaning a party who breaches the law may enter into an agreement with the regulator committing to address the areas of non-compliance. In the event of a serious breach the regulator will have increased powers to obtain documents and information during an investigation.

This new legislation is all about eliminating risk through business controls, a common theme that has featured in many recent Government reforms. Risk detection has been replaced by “positive duty”, an approach that is more proactive and can be customised to the risk profile of your business and your role in the freight task. Strong employee training and robust business systems and processes are the bedrock of this approach.”