Remondis sentence seen as significant COR step

By: Rob McKay


Consignor stung for nearly $1 million as Chain Of Responsibility stretches past transporter

Remondis sentence seen as significant COR step
Local Court reinforces Chain Of Responsibility's reach

 

New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and a noted legal expert have emphasised the Chain Of Responsibility (COR) risks consigners and others face, after a recent NSW Local Court case cost a waste-management company just shy of $1 million.

The consignor firm, Remondis Australia, was fined $732,206 and paid $250,000 in legal costs for allowing overloaded vehicles of contracted trucking firm Jet Group Australia to carry its mulch between September 2013 and October 2014.

It had initially fought the prosecution, thereby missing a 25 per cent penalty discount, in the otherwise low-profile case.

Remondis pleaded guilty in March to ­­12 contraventions of the NSW Road Transport (Vehicle and Driver Management) Act (RTDVM Act) and 36 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

Chain Of Responsibility involved

Nine substantial breaches of the applicable mass limit and three severe breaches related to the RTDVM Act while 19 substantial breaches of the applicable mass limit and 19severe breaches related to the HVNL.

Jet has already pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court last year to10 contraventions of the RTVDM Act – seven substantial and three severe risk breaches – and 40 contraventions of the HVNL – 21 substantial and 19 severe risk breaches.

The court notes the highest penalty could have been more than $2.1 million but regarded the case as "mid-range offending" and the penalty in this case came to 34 per cent of the total available.

The case hinged on a Lake Macquarie Council deal for Remondis to handle the loads from the council’s Awaba Waste Management facility, to be paid on weight.

Remondis employed Jet to transport them from Awaba to Jet’s own facility using a council-operated weighbridge.

Though the weighbridge dockets recorded instances of overloading, these were not reviewed or acted on.

The magistrate says that though the court accepted "that the remorse is genuine, the chain of responsibility legislation under which Remondis has been prosecuted compels that active and preventative measures be taken in relation to the whole process".

"it was never open to Remondis to rely on Jet to be properly trained and informed as to the overweight vehicles, especially when it was Remondis itself that loaded the mulch, using their machinery, without any provision for each load to be measured or weighed as it was going into the Jet truck".

The defence argument was noted that despite the large number of offences, all had stemmed from a single act of criminality – "whereby Remondis as consignor had a flawed compliance system in place".

"The Court has found that although that may be so, there were many ramifications because of that flaw, all the way down the transport chain," the magistrate states.

"I am also of the view that to describe the compliance system as ‘flawed’ is somewhat generous – until the RMS intervened, Remondis had no mass compliance system in place at all, and entrusted that to others."

Now, Remondis has: a loading protocol, so that applicable mass limits are identified and can be verified at the point of loading: load cells at the loader bucket to ensure that the legal load limits are not exceeded; communication protocols between the company and the weighbridge or driver to ensure that no truck can exit the site overweight; and supervision to ensure compliance or corrective action when non-compliance occurs.

RMS

RMS sees the outcome as bolstering COR’s implication for all those in the chain.

"Chain of responsibility investigations focus on all parties involved in the transportation of goods on NSW roads," an RMS spokesman tells ATN.

"Under road transport legislation, all parties in a logistics chain are responsible for ensuring they meet specific duties and obligations.

"Roads and Maritime Services' number one priority is community safety and will continue to pursue off-road parties which operate unsafe and non-compliant vehicles."

Holding Redlich

Holding Redlich partner Nathan Cecil sees it the same way.

"This most recent and significant Chain Of Responsibility prosecution highlights the ongoing policy to pursue consignors, loaders and consignees, the critical importance of managing the compliance of contractors and third parties in the Chain and the essential need to have in place contractual compliance regimes and documented business compliance practices in order to avoid substantial financial penalties,"Cecil says.

He warns of more prosecutions along the chain as prosecutors warm to the task and the need for those other than trucking companies to ensure their compliance systems are in order or face similar hefty penalties.

Cecil will present his take on this and other COR developments at the Australian Logistics Council Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit on September 5-6.

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