Steve Shearer sees national rail law as a poor basis for trucking COR. Image source:

SARTA Head Rejects National Rail Law as Basis for Trucking CoR

Steve Shearer sees national rail law as a poor basis for trucking COR. Image source:

Steve Shearer sees national rail law as a poor basis for trucking COR. Image source:

The Australian Trucking Association has rejected the national rail law as a basis for road transport chain of responsibility (CoR).

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) is calling for inspection of operator licencing’s extension to trucking, if the National Rail Safety Law( NRSL), which has been widely deemed as unsuitable, is the basis of CoR reform in road freight.

The concept of using the NSRL as a basis for CoR is being rejected by numerous parties who have made submissions to the National Transport Commission (NTC) on its ‘primary duties for chain of responsibility (COR) parties and executive officer liability’ proposals.

The South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) has called the idea of basing reforms on the NRSL as flawed. They have also rejected the idea of treating consignors and consignees differently to truckies and truck owners, because they say the 2 industries are structural different.

The ALC states rail operators should win regulator accreditation and comply with an approved safety management system including health, drugs and fatigue aspects.

SARTA also believes that fragmentation within the industry would make adopting general duties pointless in improving safety, unless practices are developed that are able to build operator capacity.

SARTA also argued that given the number of heavy vehicle entities as compared with rail, it recognises one positive outcome,

“a licensing regime [for trucking] is probably the more efficient way to mimic the accreditation/safety management system created under the rail safety legislation”.  


The ALC has called for the Transport and Infrastructure Council to task the NTC with considering the implementation of operator licensing in Australia.

A spokesperson from the ATA made the organisations view on the issue very clear,

“The option of operator licensing was considered by our Trucking Australia 2015 delegates in Hobart in March. Our delegates made it clear that they did not support the option,”


SARTA Executive Director, Steve Shearer in a submission to the NTC said that price-taking truck operators are different to rail operators. Whereas truck operators’ actions are mostly dictated by their clients and their demands, rail operators are fewer with big price-setters – a difference SARTA says is significant.

Mr Shearer went on to state:

“This is especially so with the very substantial number of large corporate clients including supermarkets, manufacturing, mining and others.

“Their demands and contractual conditions imposed by clients, including the freight rates paid, as well as their control over the loading and unloading tasks and procedures, are all too often at the root cause of serious safety problems within the road freight industry.”


Mr Shearer explained that governments and the NTC wouldn’t be deemed as taking safety seriously if they ignored the systemic failures with the chain and continued to focus mainly on the easier targets – truck operators and drivers.

Mr Shearer also explained that the trucking industry only supported a ‘reverse onus of proof’ in Chain of Responsibility due to the government’s pledge to use it to also address the adverse impact of powerful interests on its safe operations.

SARTA says these reforms should ultimately resolve problems and make CoR laws effective “on all parties”, which they say outweighs calls for further work on and delay of the reform. Mr Shearer stated:

“The argument from some amongst the consignor/ee ranks that applying the Primary Duty to them would be unfair, is absurd, flawed and disingenuous,” Shearer writes.

“They, like truck operators, are already covered by the Primary Duty provisions under the WHS laws and they manage their responsibilities accordingly.

“If anything, meeting their responsibilities under the NHVL COR Primary Duty would be easier and well within their expertise and capacity, if they are actually serious about safety and their reputation.”


SARTA has also called for the role-specific duties proposals to be tightened and focus on avoiding mass, dimension and load restraint breaches and/or speed or fatigue requirements by the driver.

In its submission, SARTA stated:

“This would not cover or deal effectively with unacceptable and unsafe but none-the-less established practices of some consignors/ees, such as requiring the truck driver to remove all load restraint out on the road before entering a depot/DC to unload,” the submission reads.

“Some large DC’s require this ostensibly under their own WHS policies and in doing so they show complete disregard for the Load Restraint laws and for the safety of the truck driver.

“Any role-specific duty that applies to consignors/ees must cover all aspects of heavy vehicles operations and not just mass, dimension, load restraint, fatigue and speed.”


The ALC said they did not support any further extension of the COR obligations under the HVNL.