Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
Every person in the road transport supply chain is responsible
for ensuring that the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws are
Certain parties have particular duties. But how do you determine
if you are one of them?
Before the CoR became law, heavy vehicle road safety was simple.
The parties that bore the brunt of responsibility and liability for
safe road transport were:
heavy vehicle owners/operators.
Everyone else in the transport supply chain relied on drivers
and operators to ensure that trucks were roadworthy, loaded within
their limits and driven safely.
However, the CoR recognises the control and influence on the
above matters by the other parties to the road transport supply
chain. For example, if goods aren't packed securely within a
shipping container, they can shift and cause a truck to become
unstable, or if customers set tight pick-up and delivery schedules
or impose harsh penalties for late movements, drivers may be
encouraged to speed.
To address the influence of these other parties within the road
transport supply chain, the CoR pushes obligations further up- and
down-stream, both on- and off-road.
The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is based on the principle
that any person(s) with control or influence over an activity that
affects safe road transport is responsible for the proper exercise
of that role, and may be held liable for any breach.
The HVNL imposes general duties on all relevant people to
prevent and avoid breaches. In addition, the HVNL recognises that
certain key parties have greater control or influence over road
transport activities, and imposes particular duties on those
The key parties identified under the HVNL
Driver – the person driving the vehicle,
including any supervising or co-driver. Prime Contractor – the person who engages a
driver to drive a vehicle under a contract for services. Operator – the person responsible for
controlling or directing the use of a vehicle or combination. Scheduler – the person who schedules
transport of any goods or passengers by vehicle, or the work and
rest times of drivers. Packer – any person who puts goods in
packaging, even if that packaging is already on a vehicle, or any
person who assembles packed goods or supervises, manages or
controls any of these activities. Loading Manager – the person who manages or
is responsible for the operation of loading/unloading premises or
who is responsible for supervising, managing or controlling
(directly or indirectly) activities carried out by a loader or
unloader. Loader/ Unloader– the person who loads/
unloads goods on a heavy vehicle or any container that is in or
forms part of the vehicle, or any person who loads/unloads a
freight container (even if empty) on a vehicle. Consignor – the person named as
'consignor' on transport documentation or, if there is no
such person identified, the person who engages a vehicle's
operator (directly or indirectly) or has possession of or control
over the goods immediately before they are transported by road, or
the person who loads or imports goods. Consignee – a person named as
'consignee' on transport documentation or who actually
receives the goods after their road transport.
You will fall into one or more of the categories listed here
based on the function/role that you perform, regardless of your
title. If you fall within two or more categories, you will be
subject to the particular duties that apply to all relevant
For many mass, dimension, load restraint, speeding and fatigue
offences, where an offence occurs, one or more of the employer of
the driver, prime contractor, operator, consignor, consignee,
packer, loading manager and loader/unloader can be deemed to have
committed an offence. Each of these people can be prosecuted
individually in relation to any such breach, whether or not any of
the rest are.
In addition, the directors and managers of any corporation which
breaches the HVNL are also deemed to have committed the same
offence and are personally punishable.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or
change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute
for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of
interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice
relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named
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