Speed reform anger: bosses to pay subbie fines?

Industry anger over chain of responsibility reforms, which leave operators with subbie speeding fines

By Samantha Freestone | October 16, 2009

The trucking industry has expressed anger over chain of responsibility speed reforms, which could see operators paying speeding breaches committed by non-employees.

Under the regulations which extend chain of responsibility to speeding, owner-drivers are classed as 'drivers' rather than 'operators' meaning they are not personally liable.

The news, detailed last night at an information session run by policy writers for VicRoads, quickly turned a briefing into a heated debate.

Under the provisions if a driver is caught speeding - including an owner-operator - schedulers, managers, operators and everyone else in the chain may be found liable for the offence and forced to pay a maximum fine of $58,410 per offence if found guilty in court.

Drivers will only be issued with a fine, though this will be hiked to $2,336 for breaches under the new regulations.

Many employers expressed concern regarding the management of owner-drivers and individual sub contractors at the information session at Broadmeadows in Melbourne.

"My concern is with so many sub-contractors needed, how is a transport company going to ensure there is adequate due-diligence with regard to its own system?" asked one.

"How [does a transport company] ensure compliance with regards to a reasonable steps defence? That worries me."

Krystyna Migas, Senior Policy Analyst for Compliance and Strategy with VicRoads, was bombarded with questions regarding the detail, with road freight directors concerned a known lack of control regarding human error might cost them untold thousands.

"If [an individual] is driving their own truck they are [seen as] a driver, if they are employing another driver they [are seen as] an operator," Migas explained.

The amendment to speed in the Road Safety Act is the latest in a series of reforms to implement chain of responsibility into all aspects of road law and will be effective in Victoria from November 9 this year. Other stats will enact similar legislation.

Despite the rigidity of the changes, a member of VicRoads management, who asked not to be named, says flexibility will most likely be exercised in the first "few months" of the speed reform implementation in-line with previous law reforms.

Super Intendment of Victoria Police with the Traffic Support Division, David Newton, agreed.

"Obviously there will be flexibility in the interim," he told ATN. "We need to brief our people and train them up properly and the industry needs to be advised. The information sessions are part of that process.

"We couldn’t just charge up the chain because they are speeding, they have been ordered to speed. We will look at the time they have left, etcetera.

"We’ll have to have the evidence to prove prior knowledge. In saying that, it can often be obtained from documentation."

In relation to linking drivers with suppliers, he says "we can only do what we can do".

"Only time will tell how big an issue this will become," he says.

"We’ll continue to book people for speeding. If it becomes evident they have been forced to speed by another party - anyone along the chain of responsibility line - we will investigate that with a view of charging them."

New laws to address heavy vehicle speed compliance in Victoria aim to reduce fatalities and injuries involving speeding heavy vehicles and will affect all off-road parties who can influence speeding, such as employers, contractors, operators, schedulers, consignors, receivers and loading managers.

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