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Authorities have to do better on COR enforcement: survey

NTC-commissioned survey shows authorities need to do more to boost industry's confidence in chain of responsibility laws

By Brad Gardner | September 25, 2013

Authorities need to nab a big-name scalp high up the supply chain to boost the trucking industry’s confidence in chain of responsibility laws, a new survey has shown.

In a survey conducted during April and May last year, trucking operators and drivers expressed a desire to see more parties held accountable under the compliance regime.

The survey was commissioned by the National Transport Commission and released this month alongside the agency’s Heavy Vehicle Compliance Review.

Canvassing the opinions of 400 trucking operators, freight forwarders, consignors and ancillary operators and 505 truck drivers, the survey assesses the outcomes of chain of responsibility legislation introduced over the last 10 years.

It shows 55 per cent of companies agree enforcement activities are evenhanded, but only 34 per cent of truck drivers think the same.

Less than 50 per cent of truck drivers agree all parties are now more accountable, while the number rises to 66 per cent for companies.

“Some drivers and companies surveyed suggested that the law needs to be better enforced and those in and along the supply chain also need to face prosecution,” the survey states.

“Drivers in particular need to see that the laws are applied to all parts of the supply chain to be confident that the system works.”

In two recent court cases involving the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services and Western Freight Management, the government department pursued the trucking firm for overloading breaches. Both offences stemmed from a consignor incorrectly loading freight.

The survey lists improvements companies and drivers want to see, including a level playing field where chain of responsibility applies to all, new laws to be set in consultation with drivers and operators, and better uniformity of laws across Australia.

A majority of companies nominate a harder crackdown on rogue operators with more enforcement, while drivers want greater flexibility and fairness from enforcement officers.

The survey shows there is a strong awareness of chain of responsibility throughout the trucking industry, with 90 per cent of drivers and 73 per cent of companies surveyed saying they are aware of the laws.

“Comments about Chain of Responsibility suggest that there is some lack of credible implementation for some. There needs to better enforcement of responsibility, including prosecutions, to improve belief that the system works,” the survey states.

According to the survey results, compliance practices are common among freight operators, much more common among larger operators and least common among off-road consignors.

A follow-up to surveys conducted in 2005 with drivers and 2006 with companies, the new study also looks at what has changed in the intervening period.

It finds there has been a significant decline in companies citing infringements for overloading (down from 27 per cent to 15 per cent) and a 5 per cent drop in drivers being pinged for speeding (17 per cent).

The number of drivers using a truck without a speed limiter has fallen, from 43 per cent to 35 per cent, in the seven years since the last survey.

A majority of companies (67 per cent) and drivers (62 per cent) feel safety has improved in the industry.

The survey says companies are more likely to investigate an incident involving a driver and more likely to fine or sack the driver after several incidents.

“Drivers were less likely to only get a warning and escape having to pay any fines,” the survey says.

“Greater involvement of companies in investigating incidents indicates a more active interest on what is happening on trips that might lead to infringing, in line with Chain of Responsibility.”

More than 80 per cent of drivers state they do not feel any pressure to speed to meet deadlines – and improvement of 7 per cent – but many have gripes about time slot arrangements.

“A significant issue raised by some drivers and operators in the survey was around the ‘time slots’ imposed by certain customers, notably larger supermarkets and wharves,” the survey states.

“These were reported to negatively impact on trip efficiency, including creating pressure on drivers to breach laws, as time slots were inflexible.

“Additionally, the consequences of missing a delivery time could mean drivers lost money from a job or missed an additional job while waiting for another time slot.”

The NTC’s Heavy Vehicle Compliance Review, which is currently open for public consultation, recommends measures to encourage, promote and enforce compliance in the industry.

One of the recommendations includes making sure the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator places a major emphasis on chain of responsibility investigations.

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