In order to comply with the primary duty, Chain of Responsibility (CoR) parties must address the mass, dimension and loading requirements under Chapter 4 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). Therefore, the need for a proactive approach by parties to address risk is paramount. A straightforward first step you can take is to adopt a risk-based approach to safety throughout the supply chain to make sure you are covering all bases.

The HVNL attempts to address mass, dimension and loading requirements by:

  • imposing mass, dimension and loading requirements for heavy vehicles
  • restricting access to certain roads by some heavy vehicles
  • allowing regulatory schemes to apply more flexible mass limits. Another tool provided by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) to help identify and manage risks is the Master Industry Code of Practice (Master Code).

The Master Code is an industry-led risk-based safety and compliance framework which sets the benchmark for businesses to identify common CoR risks and has legal standing under the HVNL. For example, section 632A of the HVNL applies in a proceeding for an offence – it allows a registered industry code of practice to be admissible as evidence of whether or not you complied with a duty or obligation under the HVNL.

Furthermore, your business can utilise the Master Code to guide you on how to identify potential CoR risks and assess which of the available methods, systems or tools to use. It can also assist you in better understanding your mass, dimension and loading obligations to ensure the systems you have in place are thorough and safe.

Why do mass, dimension and load breaches occur?

The below list sets out several contributing factors that may cause safety risks or encourage breaches of heavy vehicle mass, dimension and loading requirements. You must ensure your business has measures in place to identify and manage the following risks:

  • a lack of policy and procedures, or systems to report non-compliance
  • Ineffective two-way consultation, cooperation, and coordination of all parties along the supply chain
  • inadequate information, training, instruction and/or supervision of mass, dimension and loading requirements and associated procedures
  • conflicting commercial arrangements between parties
  • poorly planned or prepared loads and/or inadequate oversight to verify suitability
  • incorrect placement and positioning of loads
  • a lack of weighing or measuring equipment or method
  • inflexible loading and unloading practices, including the inability to re-adjust loads
  • improperly restrained loads and/or inadequate expertise to verify suitability of load restraint systems
  • non-compliance with vehicle and equipment operating requirements
  • inadequate maintenance of equipment
  • deliberate actions of drivers or other CoR parties
  • inadequate monitoring and/or due diligence by all CoR parties to ensure safety and compliance of transport activities.

The risks of non-compliance

Load restraint is a key concern in the transport and logistics industry. Mass, dimension and loading breaches can significantly damage and injury to road users and road infrastructure. This makes it a pertinent issue for businesses. You must ensure the measures you have in place are appropriate, accessible and subject to continual checks.

Mass breaches are often the target of prosecution because:

  • they can be easy to detect in roadside inspections
  • over-mass heavy vehicles have a disproportionate impact on publication infrastructure
  • poor performance of an over-mass heavy vehicle often leads to crashes with severe consequences.

Further to this, the Master Code identifies a range of risks associated with non-compliant mass, dimension and load restraint, primarily where:

  • off-road parties such as consignors, schedulers or loaders are not doing enough to ensure mass compliance. For example, by failing to be aware of the mass of the load that they are providing, by failing to provide accurate information and instructions to the driver or transport operator in relation to the load mass, or by not being aware of the mass limits applying to a heavy vehicle and its intended route
  • unsatisfactory load restraint practices affect the stability of a heavy vehicle and its on-road performance, leading to the driver losing control, increased risk of the heavy vehicle rolling over when there are unevenly distributed loads or loads with a high centre of gravity, and risk of significant damage to the vehicle and everything in its vicinity
  • heavy vehicles in breach of the mass, dimension and load restraint requirements cause significant damage to road infrastructure and result in serious incidents and traffic congestion.

Mitigating risk with compliance frameworks

We regularly emphasise the importance of adopting and maintaining risk-based approaches so that you can be well-positioned to meet your safety obligations. Businesses must implement risk-based measures to manage safety and ensure compliance with the HVNL provisions relating to mass, dimension and loading. There are many ways to achieve this, and there isn't one control that can be implemented to address every risk. Each compliance framework must be agile enough to respond to new and existing risks in a business' commercial activities.

The risks and controls utilised to mitigate these risks will vary between CoR parties. For example, most of you will have a control for the implementation of a business-wide policy not to enter a contract that risks causing a driver or operator to breach mass, dimension and loading requirements. However, other controls will be unique to the specific nature of business and a party's position in the CoR. For example, a scheduler will need to have a control in place to ensure route plans take into consideration mass and dimension requirements, to ensure the route or infrastructure is suitable for the load and complies with any route permits or conditions as applicable.

On the other hand, employers and prime contractors will have to make sure there is a review process to check that a driver or subcontractor is performing the activity in accordance with their employment or contractual arrangements. These arrangements must be effective in managing mass, dimension and loading risks.

In order to prevent breaches of heavy vehicle mass, dimension and loading requirements, a rigorous and flexible framework is needed. The Master Code can help establish such a framework, thereby equipping your business to respond to any existing or new risks that may arise.

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.