The reach of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is far and wide, covering consignors, prime contractors, operators, drivers, schedulers, packers, loading managers, loaders, unloaders, consignors and consignees. The list of regulators and industry associations in the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) space seems almost as long. So, who are they, what do they do and how can they help you?
The National Transport Commission (NTC)
The NTC is an independent national intergovernmental policy body that seeks to drive regulatory reform across all modes of transport to ensure safety, productivity and environmental performance.
The NTC is primarily responsible for reviewing the operation of the national transport task and making regulatory reform recommendations to state and territory ministers.
The NTC is also the primary body undertaking the current review of CoR primary duties and executive officer personal liability, which will form the new draft CoR laws (expected to be released towards the end of 2016 or the start of 2017).
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR)
The NHVR is Australia's independent regulator for all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass. The NHVR administers the HVNL.
The role of the NHVR is to administer:
- general compliance with the HVNL;
- the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme;
- heavy vehicle access permits;
- heavy vehicle standards, modifications and exemptions;
- national driver work diary requirements; and
- national notices regarding vehicle access routes and times, etc.
The NHVR runs a program of industry operator groups across the agriculture, crane, livestock/rural transport and oversize/ overmass sectors. These groups meet regularly with the NHVR to discuss practical compliance, and operational issues and concerns relevant to each sector.
The NHVR is also the focal point for policy lobbying by many of the representative industry organisations.
Finally, the NHVR is working on the harmonisation of many practical aspects of HVNL implementation, including:
- considering access applications;
- conducting vehicle inspections;
- auditing CoR compliance; and
- the circumstances in which CoR penalty notices are issued and/or prosecutions are commenced.
Importantly for industry, the NHVR is seeking to ensure consistency of HVNL inspections and breach identification across all states (except WA, which has its own substantially similar system in place).
The NHVR website (www.nhvr.gov.au) contains a number of useful CoR compliance summaries that may help you to identify your obligations and how to go about complying with them.
State/Territory Road Safety Authorities
The NHVR does not currently have its own enforcement body. Accordingly, it largely subcontracts inspection and enforcement to the state/territory road safety authorities, such as Roads and Maritime Services (NSW) (RMS), VicRoads (Vic) and Department of Transport and Main Roads (Qld).
The NSW RMS is largely considered to be the most active enforcement agency, mainly due to its substantial funding and the position of NSW as the 'throughput' state, through which the vast bulk of domestic heavy vehicle transport transits.
The RMS is quite open in identifying its enforcement priorities in advance. Presently, those sectors it considers to have low awareness and limited implementation of CoR compliance are:
- storage/distribution centre operators;
- civil contractors;
- primary producers; and
- customers (consignees/consignors).
The RMS is also responsible for administering the current construction sector Safety, Productivity and Environment Construction Transport Scheme, which permits operators to carry increased loads in return for meeting higher environmental and safety standards.
Australian Logistics Council (ALC)
The ALC is a peak industry body representing the major Australian logistics supply chain customers, providers, infrastructure owners and suppliers. The ALC is primarily a policy and advocacy body, and engages with all levels of government in relation to supply chain efficiency in the areas of safety, infrastructure, regulation, technology and people.
The ALC is actively engaged with the NTC and the NHVR in relation to their policy and implementation concerning supply chain efficiency and CoR compliance. It provides a forum for its members to discuss unified approaches to these issues.
The ALC is also responsible for developing and administering one of the limited number of industry codes of practice that are presently recognised as CoR-compliant.
National Road Association (NATROAD) And The Australian Trucking Association (ATA)
NATROAD and the ATA are the peak industry bodies representing road transport operators.
NATROAD represents road freight operators, from owner-drivers to large fleet operators, general freight, road trains, livestock, tippers, express car carriers, tankers and refrigerated operators. NATROAD focuses on ensuring national uniformity of CoR regulation and promoting safety and compliance.
The ATA represents trucking operators, including major logistics companies, transport industry associations and businesses with leading expertise in truck technology. In its 2016–2018 strategic plan, the ATA has outlined that it intends to work with the NHVR to ensure its industry code of compliance, TruckSafe, will continue to be registered under the HVNL when the new regulations concerning recognition are introduced. This will provide its members with a valuable CoR compliance tool.
Particularly for small-to-medium road transport operators, NATROAD and the ATA, along with their state/territory branch bodies, provide an invaluable compliance resource for helping operators navigate the minefield of identifying their obligations and compliance requirements, which can otherwise remain a mystery.
Other industry representative bodies
Certain industry subsectors also have representative bodies that are active on the CoR compliance front, including the Gypsum Board Manufacturers of Australia and Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, each of which provide awareness-raising, training and compliance guidance to their members. If your industry organisation does not do so (and many still do not), you should put this on their agenda.
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 individuals listed.