On 1 October 2018, changes to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) in Australia will come into effect.

The changes outline the necessary duties to assure safety within the heavy vehicle transport supply chain.

The Chain of Responsibility or CoR is the foundation of the Heavy Vehicle National Law Initiative, according to the Australian Logistics Council (ALC). CoR laws obligate each participant in the supply chain to assure the correct steps are taken to prevent drivers from speeding, driving fatigued or breaching mass, loading and direction requirements, as stated by the ALC. Under CoR laws, any individual who partakes in or has influence over any transport task is part of the chain of responsibility and has an obligation to ensure compliance. If an individual carries out more than a single task in the supply chain then that person is responsible for the safety of each of those tasks. There is a long list of those responsible within the CoR, including: consignees, consignors, employers, executive officers, loaders/unloaders, loading managers, local government, operators, packers, primary producers, prime contractors, and schedulers, according to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

The goal of CoR and HVNL laws is to eliminate or minimise potential harm or loss by reasonably doing everything possible to ensure safety. The impending amendments to CoR and HVNL laws step in line with current Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) laws, according to Chain of Responsibility Australia. The key responsibilities for those in the CoR include: ensuring demands are not made that would lead a driver to speed, exceed regulated driving hours, and drive while tired or overloaded, and each individual within the supply chain has their own set of responsibilities.

Changes apply to all Australian states and territories with the exception of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, however, they still apply when vehicles from those areas cross into the other Australian states where HVNL applies. According to the ALC, Western Australia regulates fatigue management under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. Heavy vehicles in the Northern Territory are regulated under the Motor Vehicles Act 2011.

The Australian government branch National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s Chain of Responsibility Manager Kym Farquharson-Jones has been working to educate the industry players across Australia about the upcoming changes. Farquharson-Jones said, “These changes are a significant step forward in recognising that everyone in the supply chain has a role to play in heavy vehicle safety. Primary producers also play an important role in supporting safe, reliable road transport to all road users, particularly heavy vehicles,” as reported on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s website. “Because they are part of the heavy vehicle supply chain, primary producers have for almost a decade had the same legislative obligations for heavy vehicle safety as other parties in the chain. These obligations are the Chain of Responsibility,” Farquharson-Jones said.

In Australia, 165,000 businesses make up the heavy vehicle supply chain, according to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. The January 2017 research report by Macquarie University titled, Regulating the Work Health and Safety of Australian Road Freight Transport Drivers explained that the heavy vehicle road freight transport industry has the highest fatalities and serious injury rates of any industry in Australia. In 2014, there were 36 compensated fatalities and 3,650 compensated non-fatal injuries, according to the Macquarie University report.

In another report from Jaguar Consulting, approximately one-fifth of accidents involving heavy vehicles were the fault of the driver. Technical failure, infrastructure conditions and weather conditions are a factor in about 15% of accidents involving heavy vehicles, with the driver of the lighter vehicle responsible for the remaining 85% of heavy vehicle-involved accidents. The current system usually focuses on the actions of drivers and operators, but breaches of laws are often caused by other parties in the transport supply chain and the CoR laws are hoping to prevent or reduce these occurrences, according to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

As reported in Global Workplace Insider, there are penalties with different categories for breach of the primary duty of care on each party in the CoR, which align with the penalties for breach of duty under other national safety laws. At the moment, penalties are up to AUD$3 million for a company and AUD$300,000 or five years’ imprisonment for an individual for the most serious offences involving recklessness.