'Committed' RTA fights dismissal of GrainCorp COR case


RTA committed to pursuing customers in chain, despite just one prosecution and collapse of high-profile case

'Committed' RTA fights dismissal of GrainCorp COR case
'Committed' RTA fights dismissal of GrainCorp COR case
By Jason Whittaker

Heavy vehicle enforcers say they are committed to pursuing transport customers over chain of responsibility in New South Wales, despite few recorded prosecutions and the collapse of another high-profile case.

The State Government announced last week chicken manufacturer Steggles had been fined $54,000 for accepting overloaded vehicles – the first successful prosecution of a freight receiver under the four-year-old chain of responsibility laws.

But ATN has learned another case against grain handling giant GrainCorp was thrown out of court in December with all charges dismissed. A Supreme Court appeal is currently being heard, with a judgement pending.

GrainCorp pleaded not guilty to more than 330 alleged loading breaches totalling $18.23 million in fines, in a case publicised by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

The RTA would not comment on the case, but a spokesperson for GrainCorp confirms the company is waiting for an appeal judgement.

The judge was "very clear" in the directions to dismiss the charges at the local court level, the spokesperson says.

Roads Minister Michael Daley announced the successful Steggles prosecution last week – despite the case being finalised in April – as an example of the success of chain of responsibility laws.

Daley points to figures on compliance in grain transport that show compliance rates increasing from 68 percent legal operation in 2005 to 73 percent in 2008.

‘Minor’ breaches rose from 12 to 17 percent in the same period, though cases of ‘substantial’ breaches decreased from 17 to less than 1 percent.

Philip Halton, a senior policy director with the RTA, says the organisation is "very committed" to chain of responsibility laws.

"The RTA is putting effort into chain of responsibility," he says.

"We think chain of responsibility is a very important law. It actually changes the industry and changes all the incentives around compliance with business."

Halton says transporters must be "mindful it takes several years to get a court case for everyone to see".

"Clearly the existence of these laws and the fact there are actually investigations that are occurring has materially changed behaviour, regardless of whether any part concedes they are liable for any offence," he says.

Halton points to an increase in spending on heavy vehicle enforcement within the RTA, which amounts to 60 percent of the total amount spent on truck enforcement nationally.

ATN is seeking comment from the Minister on the GrainCorp case and any other chain of responsibility cases currently being investigated.

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