In this second half of the year, it might be a good time to review and address any gaps in your Chain of Responsibility (CoR) compliance.

Recently, we have focused a lot on the ins and outs of the prosecution process and enforcement by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR). Let's take a step back and consider the foundations of a proactive and preventative approach to safety. In this article, we revisit five key components of CoR compliance that your business should be on top of.

This preventative and proactive approach to safety has become increasingly normalised in our day-to-day lives due to measures in place as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. Inside and outside of the road transport industry, countless systems and procedures exist to promote health and safety. Many of which are enforceable under the law. However, when there is a perceived low risk of danger, people often relax and become complacent. This highlights the importance of reviewing safety systems regularly to ensure they are robust and up to date so that you can rely on them.

Having a central CoR compliance policy in place, working procedures, contract clauses, and a monitoring and reporting system is the best way to ensure that you aren't leaving yourself, your workers and other road users exposed.

So, let's get into these five components of compliance. Consider the points below within the context of your own business.

A foundation for CoR compliance

1. Primary safety duty

The primary duty has been at the heart of the HVNL since the new laws came into effect at the end of 2018. All parties in the supply chain must understand that heavy vehicle road safety is not just the driver's or the operator's issue. Even if you engage and pay for someone to transport goods, this does not shift all responsibility for safe transport onto them. The primary duty represents an obligation to eliminate or minimise potential harm or loss (risk) by doing all that is reasonably practicable to ensure safety.

2. Prioritise a proactive approach

We often talk about the importance of actively shifting from reactive to proactive behaviour. Your mindset should be forward-looking. This means focusing on what you are doing to prevent breaches from occurring. Is your business doing everything reasonably practicable to prevent and avoid CoR breaches? Make sure that parties in your supply chain are proactively managing risk and preventing incidents from arising, not merely reacting to them when they do.

3. Implement CoR compliance frameworks

Under current laws, you must have 'business practices' in place that address CoR compliance. These mandatory business practices include:

  • CoR compliance policies and procedures
  • training or awareness practices
  • compliance clauses in supply chain contracts
  • compliance monitoring
  • response or remediation, and executive compliance reporting.

If you don't have these practices in place, there will be gaps in your compliance that leave you open to prosecution in the event of an incident. We often see compliance frameworks that are not properly documented or rolled out, meaning that they have been applied in an ad hoc manner or inconsistently throughout the business. Apart from undermining all of the time and effort put into them, this also introduces gaps in your safety practices that render them insufficient, thereby exposing parties in your supply chain to risk.

4. A clean bill of health

Would your business engage with another business or subcontractor if they posed a potential compliance risk to you? It seems like an obvious question but we need to make sure we hold ourselves to the same standards that we hold others to. Other businesses will be less inclined to engage with you if you are not on top of your CoR compliance and adopting a proactive approach to your safety obligations. In addition, you will need to be able to present a clean CoR record to customers in order to be considered for their work.

5. Use technology to facilitate compliance

Technology is increasingly becoming an integral part of the ways we conduct business, monitor risk and demonstrate compliance. Tools such as EWD (Electronic Work Diary), GPS, telematics, speed limiters and electronic mass measurement technology are becoming commonplace across the road transport industry. Although there are both pros and cons to integrating technology into your transport activities, it is clear that it minimises the chance of human error in tasks that involve measurement and documentation. Technology is fast becoming a valuable compliance tool.

Further to this, businesses can maximise the use of technology (such as those mentioned above) to aid compliance. For example, the capabilities of capturing data in real-time can be paired with safety escalation procedures. If alertness monitoring technology sent a notification that a driver was exhibiting signs of fatigue, there could be a procedure for the driver to pull over and contact their operator or employer to identify the next steps.

Using technology in your business practices won't abrogate your obligations under the HVNL, but it can certainly be used to track, manage and evidence compliance with them.

How do your safety systems and procedures stack up?

If your business engages with and implements the tips in this article that address five important compliance areas, you will be making good strides in taking all reasonably practicable steps to meet your safety obligations.

Your business should think about CoR risks and compliance measures from various different angles and address any gaps or weaknesses. It is important to keep your safety systems and procedures up to date, to review them regularly and provide ongoing opportunities for education and training within your supply chain.

CoR management systems and practices do not begin and end with regulations. It takes the right amount of collaboration, work and understanding. We understand that all these things take a significant amount of time and energy, but safety is always worth it.

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.