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Effluent spillage rules the focus of NTC review

Expansion of COR to include livestock preparation seen as an option


In what is a busy time for the National Transport Commission (NTC), the policy body is reviewing the treatment of effluent loss in livestock transport as a ‘load restraint’ breach under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and state road laws.

The move comes in response to a request from Queensland Parliament’s Transport and Utilities Committee for review due to lack of clarity about the application of HVNL chain of responsibility (COR) duties to effluent control and minor, incidental and reasonably unavoidable effluent spills being subject to compliance action.

The NTC notes that livestock transport is unlike the movements of other types of cargo as animals will release bodily fluids and they cannot be fully contained like liquids due to animal welfare standards.

“The loss of animal effluent was not included in the 2004 version of the Load Restraint Guide, and was not intended to be a load type that could be restrained,” the NTC points out.

“However, the performance standards are being strictly interpreted and applied to include small or minor spills that pose no safety or environmental issue, as evidence of a load restraint breach, resulting in fines and court notices under the HVNL and state road laws.”

It mentions the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association’s (ALRTA’s) submission to the committee regarding the complexities of duty, ownership and responsibility in the livestock production chain.

ALRTA sees the primary cause effluent loss as overfeeding of livestock before boarding, a view supported by Meat and Livestock Association research, but in the NTC’s view, COR “does not clearly apply to supply chain parties such as those who prepare livestock for transport”.

“Because of the interaction between chain of responsibility laws and the HVNL’s section 111, the driver of the heavy vehicle is still likely to be held solely responsible for a breach consisting of effluent loss despite having limited control over effluent generation,” the NTC states.

While this would be a step in the right direction, it is unlikely to help with minor, incidental or unavoidable spills, as “strict application of section 115 of the HVNL means any load spillage or leakage, including small amount that pose no safety and environmental issues, is evidence of a load restraint breach”.

Again, truck drivers are in the frame unfairly.

“Strict application of the load restraint performance standards also has unintended consequences for other load types (dust, minor water spillage, leaves etc.), where heavy vehicle operators are charged with an offence under section 111 for circumstances not envisioned nor intended to be captured by the offence – particularly where safety is not compromised,” the NTC states.

“The NTC has been unable to locate any evidence that a minor, incidental or unavoidable loss of effluent has affected safety or public amenity.”

  • It presents three options:
  • the HVNL COR rules for effluent management be broadened to include a person who prepares live animals for transport
  • section 111 be amended to provide that if a driver commits the offence, the other parties in the chain of responsibility are also taken to have committed the offence, subject to a so far as is reasonably practicable test. A weakness identified with the second option is that it “would not provide clarity regarding chain of responsibility duties for parties preparing livestock in relation to other heavy vehicle offences outside a breach of the load restraint requirements (i.e. state road laws and environmental laws are outside the mandate of this amendment)”.
  • the HVNL be amended so that the minor, incidental and unavoidable escape, release or discharge not constitute an offence under section 111.

The full paper can be found here and and information on making submissions can be found here.


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