The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) continues to provide the industry with targeted regulatory guidance in the form of its series of 'regulatory advice' guidance notes.
In the last two months, the NHVR has released two regulatory advices on the risks arising in the construction sector and one on managing the risks of time slot booking, which we consider here.
One of the questions that comes up time and time again when we are working with businesses to improve their Chain of Responsibility risk management practices is, "can I impose scheduled pick-up or delivery times?"
Scheduled time slots assist consignors, consignees and operators of distribution centres and warehouses with their planning and traffic/queue management. They also assist transport operators, providing them with greater assurance that they will be loaded or unloaded without delay if they arrive during their scheduled slot.
However, some transport operators push back on scheduled time slots, saying that they put undue pressure on drivers to cut corners to ensure that they don't miss slots.
So, what is the answer? The answer is that the benefits of scheduled time slots can be achieved without unintended adverse consequences, and the risks and hazards associated with time slots are mapped out and addressed at the outset.
What are the safety risks associated with the use of scheduled time slots?
The NHVR puts is best:
"The demand on drivers to meet time slots can have unintended consequences. They can feel pressured to drive when fatigued or exceed speed limits. Both behaviours create serious safety risks to drivers, other workers, road users and the community.
There are other risks associated with slot booking systems that can impact safety in and around the facility: queueing vehicles may lead to increased traffic and traffic congestion around the site; time constraints during loading can limit the chance for drivers or other workers to restrain and secure their load properly; and rushed unloading can compromise safe work practices."
Why is it important to manage these risks?
Poor time slot practices can have unintended negative impacts on fatigue, speeding, loading and traffic congestion and result in a greater risk of road accidents.
Who has a duty to manage these risks?
Responsibility to manage time slot bookings falls mainly on two parties in the Chain:
- businesses that own or operate facilities at which vehicles are loaded or unloaded. These businesses are 'loading managers' under the HVNL. As the businesses who impose time slot bookings and are responsible for managing the flow of loading/unloading activities at a site, these businesses must ensure that their time slot booking system and operations adversely impact on the transport operator's or driver's ability to plan their load, load and secure their load or drive safely
- transport operators and schedulers must in turn ensure that their rostering and load planning accommodates slot bookings and that they have practices in place to ensure that any delays to their schedule are accommodated or for alternative arrangements to be made if delays prejudice their ability to do their job safely.
How can you manage those risks?
The regulatory advice includes a great table of suggested risk controls for both loading managers and transport operators or schedulers. Just a few of the suggestions include:
- ensure a sufficient number of staff are available to load or unload vehicles, and ensure loaders and unloaders work efficiently
- in the event of a delay, communicate with operators and drivers to allow drivers the opportunity to better manage their fatigue along the journey.
Transport operators or schedulers
- when developing a driver's schedule, allow the driver adequate time to complete the entire freight task lawfully
- minimise queuing times by planning the journey to arrive at scheduled times and using any extra time around bookings to rest where possible.
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.