Workshop mulls Chain of Responsibility changes

NTC gets industry together to work through potential reforms to the Heavy Vehicle National Law

Workshop mulls Chain of Responsibility changes
Bill McKinley says the law lacks clarity


Transport industry and government representatives took part in a full-day workshop this week, considering potential changes to the Chain of Responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

While this has only been in operation since February and not yet applicable in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, a number of problems have already been identified.  The National Transport Commission (NTC) hosted the workshop in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Australian Trucking Association (ATA) Policy Manager Bill McKinley says the chain of responsibility regulations – which aim to ensure all parties are responsible for driver alertness and speed, as well as the mass, dimension, and load of each truck – are struggling to change behaviour in the industry.

He says the laws as written are difficult to understand, leaving many unclear of their exact duties and responsibilities. That has made it difficult for regulators to prosecute businesses involved in multiple, serious breaches of the law, he says.

McKinley says it has also been difficult ensuring compliance from off-road partners in the transport business, particularly some consigners and consignees. Some of these organisations have continued to make unreasonable requests and demands, or inflexible terms that can lead to driver fatigue or pressure to prioritise delivery over safety.

"One issue of particular importance is extending Chain of Responsibility to vehicle standards and maintenance," he notes.

NTC CEO Paul Retter described Wednesday’s workshop as an early step in a long process of law reform.  Around 20 stakeholders took part, representing state and federal road agencies, police, and industry peak bodies. It followed on from a special industry-government taskforce, which researched the issues and reported earlier this year. Further research is planned, with action likely toward the end of next year.

"A discussion paper is planned to be released later this year, with recommendations to go to ministers in mid-2015," Retter said.

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