Australia’s national truck laws must be substantially redrafted, the Australian Trucking Association said in response to the first issues paper of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) review. Read more
NTC CEO Dr Gillian Miles.
The National Transport Commission (NTC) expects to draft a whole new Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) after it completes its review of the existing law.
NTC chief executive Paul Retter said the review of the HVNL will be a back-to-basics review that is expected to result in an entirely new, fit-for-purpose performance-based law.
“Since May 2018, we have heard a lot from industry about the government not being prepared to make wholesale change to the law. Based on our discussions with governments, I am firmly of the view that this is not correct,” Mr Retter said.
“The HVNL, in its current form, does not reflect best practice. We understand that it is onerous for industry and the regulator, falls short of being truly national and is overly prescriptive and complicated,” he said.
The 2012 HVNL consolidated 13 model laws and brought six of the eight state and territory laws into a single national law.
“However, it is fair to say that while the HVNL was better than what preceded it, it was subject to a fair amount of compromise.”
Mr Retter said the NTC was best placed to undertake the review as it was not beholden to any particular jurisdiction. NTC will work with all governments and a large number of industry stakeholders and other experts across Australia during the review.
“The NTC was established by Australian governments to undertake exactly this type of national transport reform. We understand the law, its limitations and frustrations.”
He said the NTC had already been consulting widely with industry, road organisations, jurisdictions, fatigue and technology experts, and key legislative professionals. Detailed discussions have occurred between the NTC, the ATA, NatRoad, ALRTA, road transport organisations in each state and territory, safety bodies, and governments.
“We will establish an expert review panel to help develop new policy settings and legislation that reflects best practice.”
Mr Retter said the NTC was also setting up working groups for the key priority areas of safe and efficient access, enhanced fatigue management, accreditation for safer operations, and telematics, technology and data.
Consultation with industry will happen in rural and regional centres as well as urban areas to ensure the views of heavy vehicle operators across the country are taken into account when drafting replacement legislation.
“The 2018 review and subsequent proposed legislation will acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all across this vast country. Taking a performance-based approach to the HVNL, rather than a prescriptive approach, will deliver streamlined legislation without compromising on safety.”
The NTC will finalise the terms of reference for the review in the next few months for approval by the Transport Infrastructure Council.
The Australian Logistics Council has written to party leaders in Queensland ahead of the 25 November state election, asking them to outline their policies on key issues such as corridor protection, congestion, the development of critical freight infrastructure and improved road safety through the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
Letters were sent during the first week of the campaign to the Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, Queensland Premier; Tim Nicholls MP, Leader of the Opposition; Steve Dickson MP, One Nation Leader; and Rob Katter, MP of Katter’s Australian Party.
“Queensland plays a vital role in sustaining Australia’s freight logistics network, and with significant growth expected in the state’s freight task over the next decade, it is crucial that Queensland’s political leaders address our industry’s priorities ahead of the state election,” said Ian Murray AM, Chairman, ALC.
He noted that one of the most urgent priorities is preserving a rail corridor that will permit the construction of an alternative dedicated freight rail connection from the Inland Rail route through to the Port of Brisbane.
“This corridor must be preserved now to minimise construction costs for a future rail connection to the port,” he added. “This is essential to guarding against the impact of urban encroachment on this critical piece of freight infrastructure, and deriving the full economic benefits of this significant national project.”
Infrastructure Australia has calculated that up to $66 million could be saved on construction costs of a future freight rail connection to the Port of Brisbane if appropriate corridor protection strategies are put in place, Murray noted.
“ALC has also called on the next Queensland Parliament to provide certainty to the heavy vehicle industry by acting swiftly to pass the Heavy Vehicle National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 201,” he said.
“This legislation contains a number of significant measures which ALC believes will improve road safety. It should be passed by the Queensland Parliament as a matter of priority following the state election.”
Murray added that Queensland’s political leaders have also been asked to outline their approach on a range of other policy matters, as highlighted by the ALC in its Queensland Freight Priorities document, released in August 2017.
“These include measures to reduce road congestion, and ensuring the regulation of Queensland’s freight transport infrastructure affords our industry the flexibility it needs to operate 24/7,” Murray said. “This will be essential to meeting a freight task that is rapidly growing due to Queensland’s rising population, growing export markets and the expansion of e-commerce.”
This article first appeared in the August/September issue of Logistics & Materials Handling.
By Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director, Australian Logistics Council.
Speculation about the impact of Amazon on the Australian retail market kicked up a notch in late June, when news emerged that the company had acquired upscale grocery chain Whole Foods – effectively acquiring ‘bricks and mortar’ stores in strategic locations across the United States.
Many local industry participants are now wondering precisely what that might mean for the retail sector here in Australia, given Amazon’s well-publicised plans to expand in this country.
Yet, for all the time and space this and similar developments occupy in news pages and on television, most of the commentary on the issue is driven by speculation.
At the same time, comparatively little attention is being given to another significant change coming our way – one which won’t just impact freight logistics operators, but also anyone that uses their services.
Granted, it’s not in the shiny form of an app, or a big new market player, or drones delivering groceries straight to the balconies of high-rise apartment buildings in our cities.
Although the coming changes relate to something far more down to earth, they are far more relevant to the day-to-day operation of businesses.
Despite that, awareness and coverage of the issue to date has been astonishingly low.
The forthcoming changes to Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws, which are due to come into effect in mid-2018, will have an impact on the operations of businesses throughout the economy – not merely in the transport sector.
Accordingly, now is the time to become familiar with exactly what those changes will mean for your business – and establish appropriate systems within business operations to ensure compliance.
For those who may be unfamiliar with its operation, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) sets the rules that ensure vehicles of more than 4.5 tonnes in weight operate in a safe manner in all states and territories of Australia (except Western Australia and the Northern Territory).
Under its provisions, if you consign, pack, load or receive goods as part of your business, you can be held legally liable for breaches of the HVNL – even if you have no direct role in driving or operating a heavy vehicle.
In addition, corporate entities, directors, partners and managers are deemed accountable for the actions of people under their control.
This is what is meant by the ‘Chain of Responsibility’.
The aim of the CoR laws is to make sure everyone in the supply chain shares equal responsibility for ensuring breaches of the law do not occur.
Under CoR, if you exercise – or have the capability of exercising, control of or influence over – any transport task, you are part of the supply chain, and therefore have a responsibility to ensure the law is complied with.
The law also recognises that multiple parties may be responsible for offences committed by the drivers and operators of heavy vehicles.
By way of example, let’s consider consignors and consignees of goods.
Effectively, the HVNL is designed to prevent consignors or consignees from pressuring a transport operator to engage in unsafe behaviour, such as speeding or driving long distances without adequate breaks.
If a driver is found to have broken speed limits, or driven in a fatigued state, everyone who was responsible for requiring the driver to undertake a long journey in an unsafe manner could be prosecuted under the national law.
This is because consignors and consignees are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that drivers don’t speed or drive whilst fatigued. The current maximum penalty for failing to do this is $10,000.
Furthermore, this responsibility extends to directors who either authorised or knew – or ought to have reasonably known – about unsafe transport requirements. That said, it is considered an acceptable defence to show that parties such as directors have shown reasonable diligence in ensuring that the law is complied with.
Accordingly, if you are in a business that deals directly with transport operators to either send goods to clients, or to receive goods from suppliers, you should make certain you have a well-documented set of procedures establishing business rules requiring goods to be transported in a fashion that doesn’t compel drivers to act in a reckless manner.
It would also be prudent to ensure that the executive board establishes reporting requirements that measure how well these procedures have been adhered to.
Having appropriate procedures in place will become vastly more important when the amendments to CoR laws commence operation in the middle of 2018.
These changes are designed to align CoR more closely with workplace health and safety (WHS) laws.
Under the new regime, a primary duty of care will be introduced for supply chain participants to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of ‘road transport operations’, with executive officers (such as directors) having the primary duties regime applied to them through a positive due diligence obligation, similar to that imposed by WHS law.
Essentially, this means that if you or your company operates, loads, drives, sends or receives goods using a heavy vehicle, you will effectively have the same responsibilities as you presently do under WHS law to ensure that the CoR under the HVNL has not been breached.
This means you will need to make certain all reasonably practicable steps are taken to ensure vehicles are properly loaded and goods secured, and that drivers undertake their responsibilities in a safe manner.
This underscores the need to ensure that properly documented road transport practices are kept, and that your organisation’s executive board is kept properly informed as to compliance with these measures.
Yet, in a survey undertaken by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) in April this year, 50 per cent of respondents did not believe their organisation understood the changes coming to CoR.
Even more worrying was the fact that 90 per cent of respondents were unable to say the CEO of their organisation fully understood their obligations in respect of these matters.
Given the clear lack of knowledge about CoR and the operation of the HVNL, it’s evident that far more needs to be done to support industry in meeting its obligations – and time is of the essence.
Considerable efforts are now under way within the freight logistics industry to help make this happen.
The HVNL permits the development and registration of registered industry codes of practice.
People who can demonstrate compliance with a Code can use this as evidence to prove they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the discharge of their safety obligations.
The ALC and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) are now working together to develop a registered industry Master Code of Practice designed to assist freight and supply chain participants in complying with their CoR obligations.
It is the intention of the ALC and the ATA to have the new Master Code ready when the changes to CoR come into effect in mid-2018.
This will help provide certainty for the industry and promote higher standards when it comes to heavy-vehicle safety – which is in the interests of all road users.
The Master Code will help meet and manage the common risks faced by all heavy-vehicle operators, and help reduce red tape and compliance costs.
Given that 98 per cent of trucking businesses have fewer than 20 employees, and that other relevant road parties such as consignors and receivers also have HVNL obligations, establishing a Master Code is a practical way to help responsible parties manage safety risks.
Work on developing the Master Code is now well under way, and the ALC will be working with the ATA to keep industry fully informed as to its progress.
A particularly significant stage of its development will be the 2017 ALC Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit [please note, this event has now passed, read a full review in the December 2017 Logistics & Materials Handling].
Taking place in Sydney, 5–6 September, this event will provide an opportunity for participants to have direct input into the Master Code’s content, though a series of workshops focusing on management of speed, fatigue, load and maintenance issues.
All organisations with an interest in improving supply chain safety should register to attend, and make sure their views are heard as the Master Code is developed.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) identified a number of priority areas at the its Supply Chain Safety & Compliance Summit that will form the basis of its efforts to improve supply chain safety over the year ahead.
The event was held in Sydney this week, and featured an address by the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP, NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, as well as a keynote presentation by Sarah Bell, UK Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East of England, focusing on the central role of UK Traffic Commissioners in managing risks to road safety.
“The Summit, which was attended by more than 280 people from across the supply chain, reinforced ALC’s position as Australia’s leading industry advocate for supply chain safety and compliance,” said Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director, ALC.
“As the Summit’s opening video noted, Chain of Responsibility (CoR) is all about safety. These two days were an invaluable opportunity for industry representatives to recommit to continuous improvement, learn more about effective safety practices, and consider how to apply these techniques in their own day-to-day operations.”
A core focus of the Summit was the upcoming changes to Chain of Responsibility obligations under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), and the development of a Registered Industry Code of Practice (Master Code) to assist CoR compliance.
“Through a series of consultative workshops, attendees also had the opportunity to directly shape the content of the Master Code for heavy-vehicle safety, currently being developed by ALC in partnership with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA),” added Kilgariff.
As a result of the discussions that occurred at the Summit, the ALC has identified a number of key themes, and the actions flowing from these will form the basis of ALC’s safety-related work program over the coming year. These are:
1. The Master Code is a significant step – but it can’t solve all the problems.
The ALC will work to ensure it is comprehensive resource for industry – but organisations will still need to consider their own operational circumstances when thinking about CoR compliance.
2. Continuous improvement in safety is a core aspect of freight’s social licence.
The ALC will work with industry and governments to highlight the improved technology and safety features of modern heavy vehicles to contribute to improved safety for all road users, including passenger vehicles.
3. Safety is a shared responsibility.
The ALC will continue working to highlight this within the industry and in other sectors, especially given the increased CoR obligations of directors/executive officers from mid-2018. Driving continuous improvement in compliance is both good community practice and good business practice.
4. There is scope to make greater use of telematics and technology in safety.
The ALC will continue to advocate for the compulsory use of telematics to improve safety, as well as the removal of legislative and regulatory barriers that prevent the uptake of technology that improves safety and productivity.
5. CoR compliance will increasingly factor into procurement and contract arrangements.
Both governments and listed companies are writing CoR compliance requirements into contractual arrangements, and won’t deal with businesses that can’t demonstrate compliance. Through the delivery of the Master Code, ALC will assist businesses to develop procedures they need to not only ensure compliance, but also demonstrate it.
6. Training is vital.
Businesses need to make certain their employees (and subcontractors) understand their CoR obligations. The ALC will emphasise the importance of building CoR compliance components into training employee training modules – for both new and existing employees.
7. Relatively low cost of entry to industry poses safety risks.
Often new entrants to the sector are failing to invest adequately in vehicle safety and CoR compliance. The ALC will continue our advocacy on operator licensing/compliance and work with regulators to encourage a particular focus on compliance in this area of the market, especially given anticipated growth in e-commerce and peer-to-peer freight delivery models.
8. Executives need to understand CoR compliance and effectiveness of their organisation’s systems.
Board reporting on CoR is not just a good way of ensuring obligations are being complied with – but is also a good way of keeping safety issues a priority for businesses. The ALC will continue to work with industry to develop metrics for CoR board reporting that makes the information provided to executives meaningful, and capable of driving safety and business improvement.
9. Heavy vehicles are still overrepresented in accident and fatality statistics – even though heavy vehicle drivers are not always the party at fault.
Trend lines have started to run the wrong way – and this is not a time for complacency. The ALC will engage with law-enforcement and regulatory agencies to help determine what factors are driving this (including illicit drug use), and assist with the development and delivery of strategies to combat them.
10. Messages about load restraint/overloading are still not penetrating the whole of the industry.
The ALC will continue to support regulators’ efforts to promote this critical safety issue, particularly among smaller and independent operators.