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COR laws may be toughened in wake of failed Graincorp prosecution

NSW launches review into chain of responsibility laws in the wake of the failed Graincorp prosecution

By Brad Gardner | November 23, 2009

NSW has launched a review into chain of responsibility laws to determine if they need to be “urgently” strengthened in the wake of the failed Graincorp prosecution.

Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport David Borger says the Road Freight Advisory Council raised concerns last week the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Graincorp could undermine the laws.

The Supreme Court last week dismissed an appeal by the RTA that Graincorp should be held accountable for overloading offences in 2005.

The Government plans to complete the review before Christmas to determine if the laws are tough enough.

“Council has told me that it’s essential that the chain of responsibility laws are not undermined or brought into doubt, and they’ve expressed concern that a recent Supreme Court judgment might be perceived as having that effect,” Borger says.

“We won’t allow that to happen, and I’ve agreed to examine urgently whether chain of responsibility laws in NSW should be further strengthened.”

Borger says the council, which includes respected industry leaders Ron Finemore and Jim Savage, pledged support for the laws and called for them to be tightened.

“Council’s advice is clear: these laws are driving profound improvements in safety culture and compliance in the road freight and logistics sector, particularly amongst freight customers – and these leaders want it to continue,” Borger says.

He says the Government is committed to holding all parties accountable to promote safety and compliance.

Transport specialist law firm King Christopher Pidcock Lawyers say the court ruling will help those bound by chain of responsibility to understand their obligations.

Solicitor David King-Christopher says transport operators have been asking: “just what is required of me to discharge or exhaust my responsibilities under the new chain of responsibility regime?”

Judge Peter Hall ruled Graincorp had no choice but to accept overloaded trucks because turning them away would have exposed the consignor to potential breaches of road laws.

The court also found Graincorp’s policy of written warnings to drivers was an acceptable method of complying with chain of responsibility requirements.

“Thankfully the Supreme Court has provided some assistance in that it has effectively said that a receiver of freight has not breached its statutory duty under the legislation by providing its freight transporters with a directive that they recognise their duties and responsibilities under the chain of responsibility…,” King-Christopher says.

The Road Freight Advisory Council’s call for the laws to be tightened is part of a wider agenda proposed by the members who called for a focus on safety, compliance and economic efficiency in 2010.

Borger says he will work closely with the council to improve freight efficiency and to ensure NSW roads are being used efficiently.

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has not yet decided if it will appeal the Supreme Court’s decision.

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