In­dus­try Voice

Changes to heavy ve­hi­cle law are a win for im­proved truck safety

Australian Transport News - - Contents - Noe­lene Wat­son chairs the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion

Last year, the ATA pub­lished au­thor­i­ta­tive fi gures show­ing that the rate of fa­tal ar­tic­u­lated truck crashes fell 80 per cent be­tween 1982 and 2015. This is a dra­matic im­prove­ment in safety, but even one ac­ci­dent is un­ac­cept­able.

The ATA was es­tab­lished fol­low­ing the Graft on truck and bus crash in 1989 to im­prove the in­dus­try’s safety, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and vi­a­bil­ity. We are con­tin­u­ing to push for prac­ti­cal mea­sures to im­prove road safety.

Cen­tral to our fo­cus on prac­ti­cal safety mea­sures has been our cam­paign to re­form the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional

Law ( HVNL), the co- op­er­a­tive na­tional law for the truck­ing in­dus­try in ev­ery state and ter­ri­tory apart from West­ern Aus­tralia and the North­ern Ter­ri­tory. Changes to this law re­quire the agree­ment and co- op­er­a­tion of mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ments, and take some time to bring about.

The HVNL was as­sem­bled from a se­ries of model laws which has left it suf­fer­ing from a num­ber of fl aws. The law is com­plex, it is not con­sis­tent with best prac­tice in safety reg­u­la­tion, and it im­poses a re­verse onus of proof on com­pany di­rec­tors and ex­ec­u­tives. They have to prove their de­fence.

Crit­i­cally, the law does im­ple­ment a con­cept called chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity, where par­tic­i­pants in the road trans­port chain can be held to ac­count for safety is­sues on the road. But the pro­vi­sions do not in­clude truck main­te­nance and re­pair, even though we know that poor main­te­nance is a safety is­sue.

Back in 2012, the ATA be­gan to cam­paign to re­form the law. In 2013, we called on gov­ern­ments to ex­tend chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity to cover ve­hi­cle main­te­nance and re­pairs. Late in 2016, par­lia­ment de­liv­ered these safety im­prove­ments by pass­ing changes to the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law. These will take ef­fect in early 2018.

Most im­por­tantly, the new leg­is­la­tion will es­tab­lish a pri­mary safety duty on all par­ties in the defi ned chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity, whether they are truck­ing busi­nesses, con­signors or con­signees. This duty will ap­ply to their trans­port ac­tiv­i­ties, which will be defi ned to in­clude ve­hi­cle main­te­nance and re­pair.

To im­prove con­sis­tency, the duty of care will be amended to match the work health and safety stan­dard of ‘so far as is rea­son­ably prac­ti­ca­ble.’ Ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that the cur­rent duty of care, ‘ all rea­son­able steps’, has im­por­tant prac­ti­cal diffi cul­ties.

To re­duce com­plex­ity, an en­tire chap­ter of the leg­is­la­tion will be deleted be­cause the safety is­sues ad­dressed in the chap­ter will now be cov­ered by the pri­mary duty. A range of other fid­dly, pre­scrip­tive re­quire­ments will a lso be deleted.

The leg­is­la­tion will im­pose a due dili­gence obli­ga­tion on com­pany di­rec­tors and ex­ec­u­tives, and this duty will ap­ply to di­rec­tors and ex­ec­u­tives of all par­ties in the defi ned chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity, not just truck­ing op­er­a­tors.

In pros­e­cu­tions for breaches of this duty, the au­thor­i­ties will have to prove their case be­yond rea­son­able doubt. This ap­proach is in line with the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of our crim­i­nal law. In­di­vid­u­als should not have to prove they are in­no­cent.

The change in the bur­den of proof will be ac­com­pa­nied by a sub­stan­tial in­crease in max­i­mum penal­ties to match the work, health and safety law and in­creased in­ves­tiga­tive pow­ers.

Now that the leg­is­la­tion has passed par­lia­ment, in­dus­try has the re­main­der of 2017 to pre­pare.

The ATA’s mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions will pro­vide sup­port and in­for­ma­tion for their mem­bers in the run up to the laws com­ing into force.

If you’re not a mem­ber, I urge you to start 2017 by join­ing one of our as­so­ci­a­tions to­day. Their de­tails are avail­able at www.truck. net. au.

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