Sending goods to the right location at the right time is not as simple as driving from point A to point B — driver fatigue, overloading, and speeding are only a few accident-causing factors that plague consignors, transporters, consignees, and their employees and make the road transport industry one of the dangerous business sectors in the world.
In Australia (except Western Australia and Northern Territory), the road transport and heavy vehicle industry must observe the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). Under the HVNL is the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) law, which details the roles and responsibilities of all entities involved in consigning, packing, loading or receiving goods as part of their business.
In 2017, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) announced the changes to the Chain of Responsibility that will take effect in mid-2018. The changes are aimed at placing everyone in the transport supply chain at the driver’s seat: drivers, all the way up to the directors, must be a part of ensuring no laws are breached in the transfer of goods on public roads.
The changes to the CoR emphasises planning, deploying, and continuously improving safety systems and processes that ensure no breach is committed starting on site. It recognises that reasons behind breaches may be rooted in inefficient internal scheduling and practices that push parties to exceed speed limits, overload, and ignore fatigue risks. Every vehicle, container, and cargo must journey on public roads compliant and safe.
One of the tasks of regulators is to help examine and identify possible breaches in your processes and systems and advise what can be done to eliminate these risks and help you become more compliant.
1. Primary Duties as a responsible party
“You are responsible for that which you can influence and control.”
How do you know if you are a responsible party in the transport supply chain? In this handy check list from the NHVR, if you select Yes to any of the roles listed, then you are part of the chain of responsibility and can be legally accountable for a breach that involves your role.
Once you have identified your role, your corresponding fact sheet describes your primary duties: your responsibilities and the steps you must to take to prevent any foreseeable breaches to the CoR and HVNL laws. If a breach is detected and it involves your role, you may be held legally accountable for the breach.
2. Container Weight Declaration (CWD)
Also in the HVNL are details affecting the transport of containerised goods. In the changes to the CoR, all parties are responsible for ensuring the freight and vehicle are within weight limits, as well as observance of proper packing practices.
From mid 2018, the NHVR will require all containers to have a CWD prior to being transported on public roads.
Similarities with IMO/SOLAS VGM Law
The CWD requirement is aligned with the goals of the new IMO/SOLAS Verified Gross Mass (VGM) law that requires all containers arriving at port to be physically weighed and must arrive with a VGM certificate indicating its accurate weight.
Sea exporters who weigh their containers in compliance with the VGM law can show their VGM weight certificates to NHVR authorities as a declaration of their containers’ weight.
While there is no prescribed format for the CWD, the NHVR requires that the declaration must include the following information:
Weight of the container including its contents. You may estimate the mass, however subject to the reasonable steps defence, you may be liable if your estimation is incorrect.
Container number and other details necessary to identify the container.
Name and residential address or business name and address in Australia of the responsible entity for the freight container.
Date of declaration.
In a way, the CWD requirement helps assure that containers arriving at ports are of a safe weight.
The responsibilities of transport parties involved in containerised goods are:
Duty of responsible entity
- The responsible entity for the freight container must not permit an operator or driver of a heavy vehicle to transport the freight container by road using the vehicle unless the operator or driver has been provided with a complying container weight declaration for the freight container.
Duty of operator
- An operator of a heavy vehicle must not permit the vehicle’s driver to transport the freight container by road using the vehicle unless the driver has been provided with a complying container weight declaration for the freight container.
- If the freight container is to be by another carrier, an operator of a heavy vehicle must not give the
freight container to the carrier unless the carrier has been provided with — (a) a complying container weight declaration for the freight container containing info in the form required under s192A; or (b) the prescribed particulars contained in a complying container weight declaration for the freight container
Duty of driver
- A person must not drive a heavy vehicle loaded with the freight container on a road unless the person has a complying container weight declaration for the container.
- The driver of a heavy vehicle loaded with the freight container must, when driving the vehicle on a
road, keep the complying container weight declaration for the container—in or about the vehicle; and in a way that ensures information in the declaration is in the form required under section 192A.
3. Updated Penalties
Influence = responsibility = legal liability
At the core, the updates to the law urge everyone to adopt safety thinking and take whatever steps they can to ensure that safety is observed at every stage of delivering goods by land: making time instead of beating the clock and speeding, exert as much effort to never overload, regularly and conscientiously maintain vehicles and equipment, and to identify and eliminate fatigue risks for drivers.
Under the new law, prosecution is no longer reserved for committing an offence—it now extends to neglecting to establish practices and procedures that ensure safe transport operations and activities.
The most serious category of breach of the primary duties will have a maximum penalty of $300,000 and/or five years’ prison for individuals, and $3 million for corporations.
The latest schedule of HVNL penalties shows increased rates and demerit points for offences:
Vehicle Operations—Mass, Dimension and Loading
96 (1) Compliance with Mass Requirements – A person must not drive on a road a heavy vehicle that (together with its load) does not, or whose componants do not, comply with the mass requirements applying to the vehicle.
Max Penalties per Penalty Level:
- Minor: 4000
- Substantial: 6000
- Severe: 10000
Indexed Penalty per Penalty Level:
- Minor: 4310
- Substantial: 6480
- Severe: 10790
Maximum penalty is increased for an additional maximum $500 for every additional 1% over a 120% overload (but so that the additional maximum penalty does not exceed $20000)
187(2) and 187(3) – False or misleading information in container weight declaration – the container weight declaration for the container contains information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
- Max Penalty: 10000
- Indexed Penalty: 10790
194 (1) Conduct of consignee resulting or potentially resulting in contravention of mass, dimension or loading requirement – A person who is a consignee of goods consigned for road transport using a heavy vehicle commits an offence if— (a) the person does an act or makes an omission; and (b) the doing of the act or making of the omission results, or is likely to result, in inducing or rewarding a contravention of a mass, dimension or loading requirement; and (c) the person— (i) intends that result; or (ii) is reckless or negligent as to the matter mentioned in paragraph (b).
- Max Penalty: 10000
- Indexed Penalty: 10790
Vehicle Operations—Standards and Safety
The HVNL covers mass, dimension, loading, speed, and fatigue laws. In 2018, this will expand to include vehicle standards and maintenance.
While the duty to identify, report, and resolve defective vehicle will not change, the vehicle maintenance systems will now also share the spotlight. Investigators will now also look into maintenance schedules, fault reporting and correction, and documentation.
Don’t Risk It — Weigh Onsite
Weigh before you drive
Authorities are becoming more aware of the safety and importance of requiring on site weighing. With the new CoR, the NHVR explicitly advises transporters to put processes in place to weigh goods before any form of transport, because transporting overweight vehicles and containers:
- accelerates road wear
- causes damage to infrastructure
- can result in longer braking distances and vehicle instability
- can affect performance and handling
Which—together with speeding, fatigue, and defective vehicles—all increase the risk of crashes and put drivers and other road users at risk.
Use the right equipment and maintain it
According to the NHVR, by using certified and reliable weighing systems you reduce both your risk of exceeding mass limits and going underweight. Good equipment helps you to accurately detect and prevent overloads at the earliest possible time, but it just as any other equipment, it needs to be well maintained and regularly calibrated for consistent performance.
Conweigh Weighing Technicians, the only NMI trade approved mobile service providers in Australia, offer onsite weighing for transporters without onsite weighing facilities or certified weighing equipment to verify container weight. Once booked, Conweigh service providers arrive on site equipped with the certified Conweigh weighing kit and lifting equipment, and VGM certificates are immediately emailed after each container weighed. Such a service eliminates obligations to purchase, certify, and maintain bulky traditional weighing equipment.
Conweigh also offers a high-volume verification system called the conWEIGHr Mobile Deck that can be used to instantly verify weights of individual loads and also packed containers. This weighing platform is created using the conWEIGHr Pedestals which are NMI, OIML, and NRCS approved and regularly calibrated for accuracy.
Conweigh’s upcoming 3rd party integration software will also allow CWD-complaint VGM certificates to be generated directly from existing weighing equipment, minimising the additional administration required to provide a CWD for each and every freight container.
By enabling standard weighing equipment, like forklift scales or pallet scales, to produce complaint CWD’s during the normal course of use, the Conweigh chip will allow transporters to comply with the new laws with minimal disruption to their current operational processes and minimal cost.
The changes in the CoR laws will pave the way to a more proactive transport industry and a much safer road network.
The key steps in smoothly complying with the new CoR laws is to first identify roles and be well-informed in the legal responsibilities attached to the roles. Next, implement systems and practices with safety at the core and educate the entire organisation about the goals and results of these systems. Lastly, maintain and continuously identify improvement areas, not just for compliance, but for a safe work environment for everyone.