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Industry warned on COR load in contracts

Trucking operators need to ensure they know what customers are trying to make them liable for


Companies high up the supply chain will try and dump all responsibilities for on-road compliance on trucking operators, according to a specialist transport lawyer, prompting a warning to the industry to pay close attention when signing contracts.

Gillian Bristow from Cooper Grace Ward says many customers use written contracts to ensure compliance with the ’all reasonable steps’ provision under COR.

The provision require all parties in the chain to take necessary steps to prevent breaches relating to driver fatigue, vehicle speed and a vehicle’s load, mass and dimensions. 

Contracts outlining each party’s responsibilities are seen as one way of taking reasonable steps to comply.

“So you will find a lot of your big customers who have never had written contracts will have them now and they will seek to make you responsible for a lot of things that you may or may not have been responsible for and you may not have even thought you were responsible for but the contract will say that you are,” Bristow says.

“The sorts of things that tend to be in those contracts really, when it’s the customer dealing with you, tend to make you responsible for everything.

“So please be careful about what you are signing when it is given to you by a customer up the line.”

Bristow says trucking companies that engage sub-contractors must also ensure their contracts clearly state the responsibilities of each party.

“Do you make it clear in your contractual documents what your sub-contractors are liable for? Because you are ultimately in the firing line. You’re part of that chain,” she says.

“If your sub-contractor does the wrong thing and you are the one who gets the court attendance notice, how will you explain what reasonable steps you took when you engaged that sub-contractor? Did you have a written contract? Was it clear what they were responsible for? Without those basic things in place you are going to struggle with your all reasonable steps.”

But even if contracts detail the responsibilities of each party, there is no guarantee a company or an individual will still be able to demonstrate they took all reasonable steps if a COR breach occurs.

This is because there is no clear definition of ‘all reasonable steps’, but Bristow is hopeful planned changes to COR will address this.


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