The Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws require
that any goods loaded on a heavy vehicle are properly restrained.
For any goods not properly restrained, any person concerned with
the packing, loading or carriage of the goods is liable under the
Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). But, the load
restraint requirements don't just apply to the goods as loaded
onto a heavy vehicle, they also apply to the restraint of goods
within a freight container, which is usually done at the
point of origin and not visible or able to be inspected by any
party further down the chain. So, how do you ensure that you are
discharging your obligations in relation to the restraint of goods
within a container when you didn't pack the container and
can't check the load restraint within it?
Load restraint requirements
Load restraint must meet the performance standards set out in
the load restraint regulations and the National Transport
Commission's Load Restraint Guide, essentially:
a load must not be placed in a way that makes the vehicle
a load must be secured so it is unlikely to fall or be
an appropriate method must be used to restrain the load so that
the load can sustain the following forces:
0.8g deceleration in a forward direction
0.5g acceleration/deceleration in a rearward direction
0.5g acceleration/cornering in a lateral direction
0.2g acceleration in a vertical direction.
In the event that a load does not meet the above requirements,
the following people are deemed to have committed an offence
– the driver, driver's employer, prime contractor and
operator of the vehicle and the consignor, packer, loading manager
and loader of the goods.
Where a corporation commits an offence, any director and person
concerned in the management of the corporation is also deemed to
have committed the same offence and is liable to be prosecuted and
The current maximum fines are $52,450 for a corporation and
$10,490 for an individual.
It is a defence to any load restraint offence if you can show
that you took all reasonable steps to prevent the offence. But,
goods may have been loaded and restrained in a container long
before you have any dealings with it and where you cannot readily
inspect the load restraint within the container. So, in order to
prevent any load restraint offence, you have to address the loading
practices of the party/parties in the chain before you.
Elements that a Court will consider in determining whether you
have taken all reasonable steps include steps taken to:
exercise supervision or control over others involved in
activities leading to the contravention;
include compliance assurance conditions in relevant commercial
arrangements with other responsible persons for heavy vehicles;
address and remedy similar compliance problems that may have
happened in the past.
Recent Court decisions have identified the following practical
measures as potentially being required by importers and those
concerned with the loading of goods into containers:
notify manufacturers and suppliers (including overseas) of the
load restraint requirements and performance measures applicable in
stow containers to minimise any space between the goods and
engage qualified load restraint engineers to design and/or
approve any load restraint system in accordance with the
performance measures in the Load Restraint Guide.
For those further down the chain (e.g. drivers, transport
operators) and who have nothing to do with the loading of the
goods, the following practical measures may be appropriate:
require consignors to warrant that goods have been loaded and
restrained in accordance with the Load Restraint Guide;
ensure that you obtain particulars of the goods, their weight
and the centre of gravity of the container, so that you can
determine the appropriate truck for the task (e.g. side loader vs
inspect containers before driving, to check for signs of load
shift (e.g. bulging container walls, damage from container
where any load shift is identified or later reported, require
the consignor to satisfy you that they have reviewed their load
restraint practices to prevent any further incident of load shift
for any consignors who have multiple incidents of load shift,
refuse to carry their goods.
Just like in romantic movies, it's what's on the inside
that counts. The CoR laws require you to look beyond the exterior
and find out whether your cargo is good or bad underneath.
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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This decision will be significant to aviation industry participants in assessing whether claimants in the context of international or domestic carriage by air have commenced claims in an appropriate forum in Australia.
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