Chain changes ahead
OCTOBER 1 IS THE DATE when the amended Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) comes into play. At long last the onus will be on everyone in the supply chain to have an obligation to ensure, as best as humanly possible, that the truck driver and other road users can go about their business in a safe manner. The changes to the Chain of Responsibility (COR) laws will not start and stop with the driver, but will cover all parties, including operators, schedulers, loading managers and consignors. Unfortunately, it appears that the driver will, as in the past, remain the soft target for roadside authorities.
If the driver breaches fatigue management requirements or speed limits, they’re going to cop another hefty fine. Certainly, those further up the chain who place undue pressure on drivers, forcing them to break the law, will have a case to answer. The changes also mention those whose business practices, including loading and unloading times, cause the driver to exceed the speed limit will be liable.
However, it appears the driver will still be on the receiving end when breaches of mass, dimension or loading requirements are concerned. Sort of a guilty until proven innocent scenario.
The annual Operation Austrans blitz is always a big deal for state road authorities and the police. It involves setting up camp on the side of the road and pulling over almost every long-haul truck that comes their way.
I still have vivid memories of one such incident during a new truck test from Melbourne to Brisbane up the Newell. The New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services, (RMS) plus members of the NSW Police, swarmed over the truck, looking for something ... anything. A difficult task when attempting to nitpick over a brand new truck.
They paid no interest to the fact that a representative of the truck manufacturer as well as the video and photography crew were parked nearby, waiting for the truck to be on its way. But the uniformed officers only had eyes for the truck driver.
Certainly, there have been changes to the hierarchy at the RMS, but whether the amended COR laws will mean a more level-headed approach from roadside officers remains to be seen.
Let’s hope that those drivers, who are attempting to do the right thing, are able to avoid fines which can equal a week’s wages, and that the true offenders further up the supply chain will bear the full brunt of the law.