Three months grace
Wary ag sector gets reprieve on new laws
THE National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has bowed to pressure to delay introducing new truck safety laws to give farmers time to prepare for the changes.
The new laws, which come into effect in Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland on October 1 – three months later than planned – could see farmers fined $500,000 for safety breaches.
Farmers could be liable if a truck driver is sleepy or exceeds the speed limit on the way to or from a property, or if a truck is not roadworthy or overloaded.
The laws have been pushed back three months “to provide the additional time that some sectors were asking for to prepare for the changes, including the agricultural sector,” NHVR spokesman Andrew Berkman said.
He said come October, “all parties in the (supply) chain, including primary producers, must proactively reduce risks related to the safety of heavy vehicle transport tasks”.
This includes making sure transporters have all the necessary permits for the job.
National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said the group was pleased its requests for more time were heard, but raised concerns around the legal implications for farmers.
“We’ve been concerned about what the new Chain of Responsibility laws legally mean for farmers, and whether they impose a huge administrative burden, requiring farmers to engage in excessive record keeping and documentation,” Mr Mahar said.
After revelations in February that farmers feared “massive implications” from the changes, the NHVR called an urgent conference with state and peak farm groups to address their concerns.
Most of the Chain of Responsibility duties for farmers appeared to be reasonable, Mr Mahar said, such as not contributing to unsafe practices by demanding unrealistic time frames to deliver goods. But he said these sorts of “responsibilities” were subjective and open to interpretation. Under the changes, companies breaching safety duty may be fined up to $500,000 and individuals $50,000.
DELAYED START: The introduction of new truck safety laws has been deferred until October.