The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has recently released two pieces of regulatory advice for the agricultural sector, both aimed at ensuring that parties in the chain of responsibility (CoR) comply with their primary duty under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
The two new regulatory advice pieces are:
- Operating in the agricultural sector
- Maintenance of heavy vehicles used in agricultural or seasonal work.
These are targeted at CoR parties in the agricultural sector performing transport activities, and farmers and primary producers that:
- direct and control the use of heavy vehicles (operator)
- consign goods for transport, including grain, other produce or livestock (consignor)
- receive goods (consignee); and/or
- load the goods (loader).
Operating in the agricultural sector
This regulatory advice lays out the hazards and risks in the sector, and how to manage them.
The hazards in the sector include:
- driver fatigue during harvest
- workers undertaking long periods of on-farm work prior to operating a heavy vehicle
- workers undertaking farm work during the night and driving heavy vehicles during the day
- temporary staff who have limited experience and training
- workers, such as seasonal workers, who may not be aware of the safety risks or HVNL obligations associated with heavy vehicle transport activities in the agricultural sector
- loads not being properly restrained
- heavy vehicle rollaways
- heavy vehicles exceeding permissible mass and dimension limits.
The risks in the sector include:
- serious injury or death to workers and other road users
- damage to infrastructure
- financial costs from disruptions to business operations
- spread of disease and pests.
How to manage the hazards and risks
To manage the hazards and risks, the regulatory advice recommends:
- identifying hazards associated with their transport activities
- assessing the risks associated with those hazards
- identifying and implementing appropriate control measures to eliminate or minimise those risks
- reviewing the effectiveness of control measures, either periodically or after any incident, to ensure they remain effective.
The strategies used to ensure safety and manage risks should be developed with, and communicated to, your workers. You may also consider ways you and your business can stay up to date with hazards and risks, and methods to eliminate or minimise them. These may include through industry publications, Registered Industry Codes of Practice, and discussions with other industry members, your colleagues and employees.
Maintenance of heavy vehicles used in agricultural or seasonal work
This regulatory advice lays out the hazards and risks associated with heavy vehicle maintenance in the sector, and how to manage them.
The hazards include:
- mechanical failure
- accelerated wear and tear due to a build-up of dirt, mud and other contaminants, which can cause corrosion of heavy vehicle components and disguise defects, such as cracks
- incidents caused by mechanical failure or unroadworthy vehicles
- damage to the vehicle or infrastructure if it's not fit for purpose
- loss of load.
The risks include:
- serious injury or death
- damage to roads and other public infrastructure
- harm to the environment
- reduced business efficiency and productivity
- delays and costs associated with downtime of vehicles
- financial costs to repair the vehicle
- reputational damage.
How to manage the hazards and risks
To manage the hazards and risks, the regulatory advice recommends (in addition to those measures listed in the Operating in the agricultural sector regulatory advice):
- implementing, and adhering to, a systematic service schedule, with particular attention to vehicle component wear accelerated by the operating environment
- ensuring maintenance and repairs are carried out by a licenced mechanical workshop or a suitably qualified mechanic
- ensuring vehicles that are used seasonally are inspected prior to use at the beginning of the season, with particular attention to brakes and tyres
- checking for signs of damage caused by rodent infestation during storage
- ensuring vehicles are mechanically safe by being properly maintained
- enrolling in maintenance management accreditation, such as the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme
- documenting what steps should be undertaken when placing equipment in storage (equipment stand-down procedure) and when reintroducing the equipment into use (stand-up procedure)
- implementing a safety management system that includes:
- implementing a daily checklist to ensure the continued mechanical safety of vehicles
- using a recording and reporting system for faults, defects, and maintenance history
- ensuring any reported faults are responded to and fixed in a timely manner
- grounding a vehicle that is unsafe and not allowing the unsafe vehicle to be used until the defect has been rectified and the vehicle is safe.
When undertaking agricultural or seasonal work, ensure you are selecting the appropriate vehicle for the task. Once the vehicle has been selected, consider the following:
- service schedule and service intervals:
- original equipment manufacturer specifications provide detailed instructions for the frequency at which routine maintenance should be carried out on each part of a vehicle, and also recommend appropriate spare parts or replacements
- service intervals should reflect the use and operating environment (different operating environments will impact the service requirements and frequency.
- assumed usage will impact the service intervals. For example:
- the more kilometres travelled, the greater the impact on tyre usage and therefore, the shorter the service interval for tyre checks will be
- if travelling through more water than usual, you'll need to
undertake visual inspections of components impacted by water, such
- for obvious signs of leaks and water damage – for example, oil that has been contaminated with water will look cloudy or 'milky'
- brakes and brake components are clear from debris and mud, especially automatic slack adjusters
- steering and suspension components are clear from debris and mud
- electrical connections and sensors are not affected by water or corrosion. Spray with an approved water dispersant lubricant if necessary
- there are no foreign objects lodged in the undercarriage or cooling system of the vehicle.
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.