On 13 November 2020, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) issued a prohibition notice to Sidhu Investments (Qld) Pty Ltd, trading as Auswide Linehaul Services (Auswide Linehaul), ordering the business to cease operating its fleet of approximately 100 heavy vehicles until it had implemented mandated fatigue management controls, fatigue management training, fitness for duty controls, a system for non-conformance management, incident management, vehicle safety and due diligence.
The prohibition notice was issued under section 576A of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
The prohibition notice was issued following inspections conducted at the business' premises in September 2020, forming part of an ongoing safety investigation conducted by the NHVR. The investigations followed a number of incidents involving the business, including a heavy vehicle roll-over and a near-miss, head-on collision with a heavy vehicle operated by a third party.
As we discussed in our previous article here, the NHVR can issue a prohibition notice if it reasonably believes that an activity involving a heavy vehicle is occurring or may occur that will involve an immediate or imminent serious health or safety risk to a person.
We can infer that the NHVR considered the occurrence of repeat safety incidents and presumably, other matters identified during their inspection, indicated to the NHVR that certain aspects of safety and risk management were not being proactively managed and this posed a risk to health and safety.
The prohibition notice has since been lifted, with the business working with the NHVR to develop and implement measures to address the NHVR's concerns, including:
- engaging a third party to conduct driver training and driver skills or competency assessments
- developing and implementing the mandated controls for fatigue management, fatigue management training, fitness for duty, non-conformance management, incident management, vehicle safety and due diligence
- conducting defect inspections on 65 heavy vehicles
- engaging third party safety management consultants to assist with the development, implementation and training relating to risk management procedures
- continuing to install real-time fatigue measurement and monitoring systems in the business' fleet of heavy vehicles.
Separately, the business conducted an audit of its policies, procedures, documents and management practices and also noted that it had spent over $350,000 on the installation of fatigue management technology, electronic work diaries and GPS tracking of vehicles.
A separate business (although bearing a similar name), Punjab Roadtrains Pty Ltd, trading as Auswide Transport Solutions (Auswide Transport) and an associated business, Southern Cross Freight Lines Pty Ltd (Southern Cross), were also issued with prohibition notices three days after Auswide Linehaul. That prohibition notice similarly focused on fatigue management safety concerns held by the NHVR.
The prohibition notice against Auswide Transport and Southern Cross was lifted after the businesses entered into an undertaking to the NHVR to provide periodic updates to the NHVR as to the development and implementation of additional compliance practices to address the NHVR's concerns.
What are the takeaways?
The occurrence of a series of safety incidents and/or inspections by investigators suggest that HVNL safety not being properly managed may lead to the NHVR issuing a prohibition notice which effectively grounds the fleet until it is complied with and lifted or successfully challenged and overturned.
Either way, the immediate commercial impact to a business whose fleet is instantly grounded would be significant, to say the least.
If your business is the subject of investigation, the best approach would be to ask the investigators to identify any concerns that they have and then either satisfy those concerns by explaining how the business in fact already addresses them, or agree to implement corrective measures in conjunction with the investigators.
In this way, you would hope to avoid what could otherwise be the very significant commercial and financial impacts of having your fleet immediately grounded.
This article was originally published in CoR Adviser. The article is © 2020 Portner Press Pty Ltd and has been reproduced with permission of Portner Press.
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