Chain of Responsibility Laws to Gain more Muscle

Work for NTC and NHVR as stakeholders seek wider coverage and Ministers back taskforce report

National Chain of Responsibility (COR) laws in trucking will be strengthened but further work must be done on what that entails as well as its extension to heavy vehicle maintenance and executive officer liability.

The Chain of Responsibility Review Taskforce Report shows the Transport and Infrastructure Council endorsed 12 of its 13 recommendations but called for the National Transport Commission (NTC) to provide options for extending COR provisions to cover heavy vehicle maintenance standards and road worthiness by November.

That extension was supported by all taskforce members but VicRoads, which wanted further clarification.

The Council also backed the report’s advice that the NTC explore the consistency of the executive officer liability provisions in the National Heavy Vehicle Law (HVNL) with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) principles and guidelines relating to duties of company directors.

Six of the 12 remaining recommendations related to actions during the time or after the NTC establishes “a process to investigate the development of broader duties” within the COR.

These include:

  • onus of proof for extended liability offences
  • inclusion of additional duty holders, including to notify operators of  driver breaches, “subject to further consideration of procedural fairness, privacy considerations and operational practicalities”
  • revising the powers of authorised officers
  • review penalties for additional CoR offences
  • examination of additional sanctions
  • consistency in the drafting of CoR provisions be revisited after the process to review the possible inclusion of additional duties.

While it is getting up to speed with its other responsibilities, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is to be given extra work, particularly relating to development of enforcement guidelines and guidance material.

“These guidelines should extend to situations where authorised officers break seals,” the recommendations say.

“Where possible the guidelines should be developed in consultation with police.”

The regulator will have to speed up  the creation of its COR unit and clarify its role, along with leading national efforts to improve cross-border chain of responsibility investigations and data sharing, while developing prosecution guide8ines.

And both the commission and the regulator will have to come up with “stronger guidance” for work health and safety authorities clarifying the weight of NTC guidelines.

Commenting on the report’s release, NTC CEO Paul Retter says the taskforce’s recognition of the importance of the COR provisions in the HVNL “demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction”.

On COR itself, he states: “There is no point in authorities throwing the book at truck drivers for speeding if they’re being pressured to meet unrealistic timeframes set by someone else.”

The full COR Taskforce Report can be found here.