ATA wants streamlined and stronger chain of responsibility provisions

By: Brad Gardner


Industry lobby wants extra provisions slotted into COR regime, along with steps to streamline the law.

ATA wants streamlined and stronger chain of responsibility provisions
Keep it simple: ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says the existing chain of responsibility regime is complex and difficult to understand.

 

The trucking industry wants policy makers to strip the complexity from chain of responsibility (COR) law while widening its coverage to hold more parties accountable in the supply chain.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has urged the National Transport Commission (NTC) to propose streamlined COR provisions contained in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) to make it easier for businesses to understand and comply with.

The NTC is currently conducting a review of COR, and the ATA believes a restructure is vital while also applying it to load restraint and vehicle safety and standards. 

"The ATA has long argued that the complexity and inconsistency of the existing COR provisions is a problem for industry and regulators. Even prosecutors and judges have trouble understanding them," ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says.

"From an industry point of view, the lack of clarity and sensible organisation in the law makes it unnecessarily difficult for businesses, managers and employees to understand and comply with their legal obligations."

The ATA says many duties contained in the COR provisions are duplicated and that the structure of them should be aligned with the model Work Health and Safety Act.

The proposal involves the addition of a new chapter in the HVNL containing the responsibilities of each person in the the supply chain, such as drivers, schedulers, loaders, operators and consignors. Consolidating the responsibilities into one chapter, the ATA says, will make it easier for individual parties to find and understand their obligations.

"The proposed structure would be broadly consistent with the structure of part 2 of the model Work Health and Safety Act," the ATA’s submission to the review states.

"Trucking industry personnel who deal with chain of responsibility compliance are almost always responsible for work health and safety as well. Aligning the structure of the two laws would make the HVNL more straightforward for them to use."

"The ATA believes the restructure should include the creation of new CoR duties covering mass, dimension and load restraint, and also vehicle standards and safety."

It also wants the NTC to recommend transport ministers ditch the ‘all reasonable steps’ concept currently contained in COR law.

The measure is designed to provide a defence against COR breaches so long as the company and/or individual can show they took all reasonable steps to prevent an offence from occurring.

But the ATA says the term is misleading and has serious practical problems, adding that the HVNL does not define the meaning of ‘all reasonable steps’.

"The ATA proposes retiring the concept of ‘all reasonable steps’ and replacing it with the work health and safety standard, ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’," St Clair says.

"Businesses have a clear understanding of their obligations under ‘so far as is reasonably practicable.’ In addition, it has a history of consistent interpretation by the courts going back to 1949.

"There is probably little legal difference between the two standards, so the proposal would make the law clearer and more understandable without affecting safety."

Furthermore, the ATA wants the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to begin publishing codes of practice to help businesses comply with their COR obligations.

It says guidelines are an essential part of best practice safety regulation and that they can be used as evidence to demonstrate compliance.

There currently are no codes of practice under the HVNL and the regulator has not published any guidelines for registering one.

"The NHVR should issue these guidelines as soon as possible. In addition, the NHVR and NTC should publish more non-code guidance material about how businesses can comply," St Clair says.

The ATA’s submission says guidance material will complement industry codes.

"In doing this, the NHVR and NTC should make it clear that the material is a guide only and is not authoritative," the submission states.

"The two organisations would also need to have processes to systematically and promptly review their guidance material as the HVNL case law evolves."

The NTC late last year released a discussion paper on ways to improve COR.

The paper recognises the complexity of the existing regime and that is difficult to understand.

Submissions in response to the discussion paper will be considered during the development of a final policy proposal to go to Australia’s transport ministers in May this year. 

 

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