As outlined in our November transport update, the
Queensland Parliament (as the host jurisdiction) has now passed
major changes to the chain of responsibility provisions in the
Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). Those changes will be
automatically rolled out in all Australian states and territories
(except Western Australia and the Northern Territory) and are
likely to come into force in mid-2018.
The changes will:
Impose a new 'primary duty' 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
place practices and procedures that ensure the safe operation of
its transport activities.
Alter the current penalty regime 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
Impose a positive obligation 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 or fined up to $300,000.
The new provisions are similar to the obligations and penalties
imposed in workplace health and safety legislation. Recent
decisions in the workplace health and safety area make it clear
that the courts will take a robust approach to what is
'reasonably practicable' and we anticipate a similar
approach will be taken to the new chain of responsibility
provisions. For example, in
DPP v Toll Transport Pty Ltd  VCC 1975, a major
transport company was fined $1 million after a stevedore was
crushed to death while working on the weather deck of a ship at the
Port of Melbourne. The court stressed that in workplaces where
'the risk of catastrophic injury or death is high, constant,
and readily foreseeable, the term "so far as is reasonably
practicable" must involve the creation of strict, rigorous and
comprehensive standards which are then religiously maintained'.
Our alert explaining this decision is available
To assist transport operators and others in the chain of
responsibility to understand their obligations under the new
provisions, we are running half-day training courses in February
and March 2017. All of the details are available
Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in
This publication is for information only and is not legal
advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your
circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If
there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising
from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward
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