Heavy transport operators, together with all Australian businesses that consign, pack, load or receive goods that are transported by a heavy vehicle, need to be aware of the amendments to the chain of responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) that are expected to commence in mid-2018. To assist businesses get ready for the changes, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has recently released 10 fact sheets to assist the approximately 165,000 companies that make up Australia’s heavy vehicle supply chain.
The amendments to the HVNL will make the following changes:
- A new ‘primary duty’ will be imposed on all parties in the chain of responsibility to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of their road transport activities. The current chain of responsibility provisions deem parties in the chain to be responsible for a series of on-road offences, such as breaches of vehicle’s mass, dimension and loading requirements and breach by drivers of speed and fatigue requirements. The new provisions go further – it will no longer be necessary for a road offence to be committed before a party in the chain is liable under the HVNL. Instead, a party may be prosecuted because it does not have in place practices and procedures that ensure the safe operation of its transport activities.
- The current penalty regime will be altered by introducing a hierarchy of penalties based on the nature of the risk and the actual harm or damage caused. The most serious category of breach of the primary duty will attract a maximum penalty of $300,000 or five years’ prison (or both) for individuals and $3 million for corporations.
- A positive obligation will be imposed on all ‘executives’ to exercise due diligence to ensure the business complies with its primary duty. An executive is not confined to a partner or director but, in the case of a corporation, extends to ‘a person who is concerned or takes part in the management of the corporation’. A breach of the due diligence obligations can result in the executive being jailed
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s fact sheets provide information on the chain of responsibility obligations of consignees, consignors, loaders, packers, schedulers, executives, employers and other parties in the chain. These fact sheets, along with a video explaining the changes, are available here. Cooper Grace Ward is running regular half-day seminars on the new chain of responsibility regime, both at our offices and, by request, at the offices of clients. If you would like more details about these seminars, please do not hesitate to contact Gillian Bristow on +61 7 3231 2925 or Emily Ng on +61 7 3231 2986.