Passing the Buck

In the past, the chain of responsibility (CoR) has been seen as a way for big operators to pass the buck. Now, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is trying to get information out about next year’s changes to CoR legislation to each component in the chain, including drivers, owner-drivers and small operators subcontracting to the bigger operators. In the first of a two-part guide, Diesel News went along to a session to find out more.

Passing the Buck
A National Heavy Vehicle Operator session looking at chain of responsibility changes.

A lot of the talking about the next-generation CoR rules, which come into force in July 2018, has been about the high corporate fines and possible jail time for offenders higher up the chain. However, the NHVR has been flooded with requests to run information sessions all over the country to get trucking operators up to speed on the new rules.
The information session Diesel News went along to was different again, targeted specifically at the small operators, owner-drivers and drivers who are subcontractors to global distribution company CEVA Logistics. The event was requested and organised by CEVA, which enjoys a well-developed relationship with its subbies.
Often, these operators are on the front line of the CoR front, making the final delivery of goods to end-customers at the end of a long and complex chain, often from overseas and after the goods have travelled through a number of hands, all with different attitudes and priorities. This is the chain in the real world.
Those that handle the last mile in so many of the various supply chains not only bear the brunt of the issues, but they are also the most difficult to access, for an organisation like the NHVR. Most owner-drivers are not sole subcontractors to a large corporate like CEVA, more often they are at the end of a long chain and several degrees of separation away from the prime contractor.
Nevertheless, the CEVA subbies are a good place to start for the NHVR, easily accessed in one large corporate site like ‘CEVA City’, an expanding group of warehouses and loading areas that has sprung up in the last couple of years in the new Melbourne suburb of Truganina. This suburb is the next stage in Melbourne’s relentless spread to the west, towards Geelong, past Altona, Laverton and Derrimut.
For the NHVR, talking to the trucking industry at this level is something a little different. Used to dealing with public servants, politicians and industry associations, now the regulator is having to explain what the new rules might mean to the people who are going to bear the brunt of the enforcement of those rules.
“For me it’s about getting owner-operators to engage with us,” said Sal Petroccitto, NHVR CEO, at the start of the presentation to drivers. “As an organisation, we are very keen for you to continue to do that. I am aware it might seem a little daunting to chat to a regulator, but I really do encourage you to reach out.
“Yes, there are changes, but they are not as concerning or scary as some people are making them out to be. We need to understand what’s coming down the pipeline. This is one part of what we do as an organisation; we are quite diverse covering everything from access issues, to productivity and safety, to enforcement and compliance.
“As an organisation, as we begin to mature, we are starting to get more status across the country. In South Australia, from 3 October, there will be NHVR inspectors actually pulling people over. That will continue across the country. We are having discussions in Tasmania and New South Wales. Over the next three, four, five years you will start to see a consistent national approach to enforcement.”