Operators bear brunt of COR investigations

Review of chain of responsibility backs trucking industry claims that investigators aren’t doing enough to hold entire supply chain accountable

Operators bear brunt of COR investigations
Operators bear brunt of COR investigations
By Brad Gardner | July 5, 2013

A taskforce handed the job of reviewing chain of responsibility laws has backed industry claims that investigators are not doing enough to hold the entire supply chain accountable.

An issues paper released today for feedback on the effectiveness of the laws reveals trucking operators continue to draw most of the heat from authorities for chain of responsibility breaches.

Data drawn from the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) shows almost 47 percent of the 3,209 charges laid from 2005 to June 2012 were against trucking operators (1,503). Conversely, only 512 charges were laid against consignors, with investigators handing out 685 to consignees.

The data shows only 14 charges were laid against schedulers in seven years. The figure drops to nine for loaders.

"Despite the positive cultural change effected by CoR, industry believes that investigations remain focused on drivers and operators rather than the wider supply chain. It seems CoR has successfully moved the focus away from drivers and onto operators but may not have pushed far enough along the rest of the chain," the issues paper states.

"In the absence of comprehensive data it is difficult to empirically analyse this claim. However, based on the data published by RMS the claim appears sound."

The report goes on to say that 55 percent of the individuals charged for chain of responsibility offences from 2005 to June 2012 were operators.

"This suggests that operators are over-represented as the focus of enforcement along the supply chain," the taskforce says.

Established by transport ministers late last year, the taskforce made up of government and industry representatives was asked to examine chain of responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law to ensure the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator can enforce them effectively.

"The issues paper is intended to facilitate submissions to the review from a wide range of interested people. This will help us to make our recommendations to ministers by early 2014," consultant Robin Stewart-Crompton, who chairs the taskforce, says.

"The paper does not, however, reflect our final views on the COR regime or indicate any possible conclusions that we may reach after we have considered the submissions and completed our examination of the relevant law and practice."

Transport ministers identified the need for a review during the development of the national law, which is due to take effect on September 1 this year.

"The chain of responsibility regime is an important part of the law. We strongly encourage everyone who has an interest in fair and effective regulation of the heavy vehicle sector to consider the issues paper and provide comment," Stewart-Crompton says.

"Anyone who makes a submission may address any relevant matters and should not feel restricted to what we have identified in the issues paper."

The paper covers provisions relating to general duties, requirements, standards and liability for breaches, while also detailing defences and penalties.

Some of the questions stakeholders are asked to consider include whether chain of responsibility is applied consistently across jurisdictions, if regulators have difficulties enforcing the laws and if new duties or provisions are required.

The issues paper says the RMS has the most resources to enforce chain of responsibility and that investigators laid about 400 charges and began 63 new investigations in 2010-11.

The paper says existing jurisdictional requirements are hampering the effectiveness of cross-border investigations, along with the absence of a national database of vehicle and operator history.

"It therefore cannot inform an officer in Queensland if a Victorian registered truck travelling on its roads has a history of defect notices or fatigue violations," the paper says.

"NSW reports that one in three vehicles on its roads are interstate vehicles but the lack of information on those vehicles means enforcement officers cannot make meaningful assessments of the vehicle’s risk."

The paper says the lack of information sharing across borders means agencies tend to focus on vehicles registered in their jurisdiction even if they are not considered to be a high risk offender.

The paper adds that the absence of cross-border interoperability has left trucking operators frustrated because vehicles are being stopped multiple times on an interstate route.

"Therefore, a vehicle stopped in Victoria and found to be ship-shape may be stopped shortly thereafter in NSW and then again in Queensland," the paper says.

"Of course there may be good reason to target the vehicle repeatedly. But then again there may be other, higher risk vehicles that should be the focus of attention. In the absence of a real-time, national heavy vehicle database it is impossible to know."

The taskforce’s final recommendations on chain of responsibility will be presented to transport ministers at the same time the National Transport Commission delivers its review of heavy vehicle penalties.

The taskforce’s members include the Australian Trucking Association, the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Logistics Council, RMS and the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association.

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