NatRoad 2015: NTC moots staged reform of COR

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner

The amount of work needed to reform chain of responsibility may take some time, Retter says

NatRoad 2015: NTC moots staged reform of COR
No quick fix: Paul Retter says chain of responsibility reform may be a staged process.


Reforms to chain of responsibility (COR) law may need to be done in stages due to the level of work involved.

National Transport Commission (NTC) CEO Paul Retter told this year’s annual gathering of NatRoad members the plan to slot in primary duties to the COR framework will not be a quick fix.

The NTC last month released a discussion paper on the issue, proposing to align COR with the Work Health Safety Act and impose role-specific responsibilities on parties in the supply chain.

Transport ministers are due to vote on a final proposal in November.

"I have to say that it is amazing to watch as this has unfolded; the desired scope of change seems to have grown and blossomed in the last few weeks," Retter says.

"So I am grappling how I deal with that and still achieve some of the things that ministers want to have done quickly.

"It may well mean that we do things in a couple of tranches as opposed to all-in-one job lot.

"But my point here is that what we will deliver in my view will strongly provide industry with much greater control over how you respond to the law’s requirements."  

Retter says the addition of primary duties will give trucking operators greater flexibility in how they comply with COR.

Currently, COR law prescribes exactly what parties must do. Primary duties, however, will provide an overarching responsibility a party must meet but then leave it to them to decide the steps they will take to comply.

"So I think it will be good for safety, it should be good for those operators who know what they are doing and have a good understanding of the risks involved in their business," Retter says.

The proposed changes may also lead to the introduction of severe financial penalties and jail time for COR offenders if the same penalty structure contained in the WHS Act is adopted.  

An employee who breaches the WHS Act can be fined a maximum of $300,000 or spend five years in prison, while contractors can be fined $600,000. Body corporates can be fined up to $3 million.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) supports the inclusion of primary duties and it also wants fatigue management protections for truck drivers along with a measure holding consignors and consignees accountable for vehicle maintenance standards.

"There is no doubt that the commercial relationship between consignors and operators can influence the fleets they use and how they are maintained," the ATA says.

"For example, it is possible to imagine a consignor setting rates or seeking supply chain efficiencies that it knew, or reasonably ought to have known, could only be achieved by underspending on maintenance or equipment."

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