As of next year, when looking at chain of responsibility (CoR), it’s no longer about the driver. CoR has been realigned to look at the business practices of the parties in the chain. If a driver is sitting at a distribution centre (DC) for four hours and there is a loading problem, the investigation will look at the loading practices of the DC.
The obligation is about each party in the chain, they have to ensure the safety of their transport activities. The onus is on everyone.
“Think of it like this,” says Kym Farquharson-Jones, NHVR Senior Advisor, Chain of Responsibility. “You are cruising along listening to your favourite music, and think about them at a concert. They are the main act, everyone else is a support to them, the roadies, the venue. It’s the same with you owner driver and small operators, the vehicle and the activity its it’s involved in is the main act. Everyone else in the chain has to support the safety of that activity.
“This means they have to remove the risk. The risk is the National Heavy Vehicle Law (HVNL) breaches. They have to eliminate the chances of a mass breach, a fatigue breach. As much as they can influence, they have to try and eliminate that from happening. If they can’t, then they have to minimise it as much as possible.
“Look at a loading manager situation, if they aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing, there’s the breach. They also have to make sure what they are doing doesn’t cause or encourage drivers to offend against the HVNL, speed rules or workplace health and safety (WHS) rules.
“It’s all about managing that relationship. If people are doing things, which are causing you concern, which aren’t safe, you need to say something. They’ve got an obligation, front and centre. They can’t ask a driver to do something, which will cause them to break the law.”
By aligning the new rules with WHS, this means the size of the penalties are much higher than they are currently set. If an operator or another party is reckless in making sure the activity is safe they can suffer a period of imprisonment, for the first time.
There are five aspects to the consideration parties must look at. They must look at the chances of something happening. If it does happen, what are the consequences and what can the party do to stop it happening.
“If someone falls asleep behind the wheel of a truck, what are the likely consequences,” says Kym. “It is in a high risk category. So what do you know about it and what can you do? When we talk about fitness for duty, we are talking about making sure someone is fit to drive the truck.
“I have been to so many operators who tell me the drivers do a ‘tick and flick’ before they start, which is handed in with the paper work at the end of the day. Does anyone look at them? Does anyone gauge whether they fatigued? Does anyone ask them how they are during the journey, or at the end of the day?
“This isn’t hard, we could do more things than we are currently doing to manage the fatigue. I’m not saying that’s the right way to do it, let’s just think about what else we can do.”