Next year, small fleets will have to ‘see it, mention it and record it’ if they want to avoid being the scapegoat in Chain of Responsibility (CoR) cases. They need to be prepared and well informed. Diesel News finds out what they need to know, in our Owner Driver’s Guide to CoR.
When the new CoR rules come into force in July 2018, it marks a step-change in the way the regulators will look at who is responsible, if and when something goes wrong while a road transport task is taking place. The idea is, the onus will be on everyone involved in the supply chain to do the right thing and ensure the safe passage of goods from A to B.
We have previously covered the basics – the driver and risk areas. We examined what a small fleet operator or owner driver needs to think about and how they need to change their practices to avoid getting caught in the CoR net. The large corporations, who own most of the work small operators are ultimately sub-contracting for, have expensive lawyers and large compliance departments whose only job is to cover their backside.
The smaller operator can’t afford a compliance team, but can employ some smart and careful thinking to do the same job on their behalf. It is not intrinsically difficult, but it is vital to get it right. If you are seen to be in a compromising situation and haven’t done anything about it, you could be liable. More importantly, the real culprit who may have cornered the small operator into doing the wrong thing will not get away with it.
The new rules for 2018 see a change of emphasis in the way the CoR rules work and will be applied. The thinking behind the changes was to bring these rules into line with. and utilise the same philosophy as the workplace health and safety (WHS) regulations.
Running Through a Scenario
The kind of issue we are talking about was outlined by Kym Farquharson-Jones, NHVR Senior Advisor – Chain of Responsibility. She draws down on her years as a police officer and an enforcement officer for the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) in Queensland to paint a picture of an issue and what the consequences can be.
A truck pulls into a stevedore’s yard and a sealed container is loaded onto a vehicle and the driver is handed a container weight declaration. The vehicle then goes to exit the port precinct and on the weigh-bridge, the vehicle’s gross combination mass (GCM) exceeds the legal maximum.
“Who’s accountable in that situation?” asks Kym, talking to roomful of small operators and owner-drivers. “The driver, he’s number one, isn’t he? He’s accountable. The next person is the one who put the load on, the loader is accountable. The loading manager should have known as well. The packer, the consignor all of those people. The owner of the vehicle may not even be there and they are liable. All of these people, under our current rules could get the same infringement as this driver.
“How is it going to be different next year? There’s no more of this situation where the driver commits an offence and everyone’s in. What it will be is everyone who is a party in the chain has to make sure the action of the transport activity is safe. You have to make sure you are not going to breach mass, fatigue, load restraint, because these practices will be under scrutiny.
“‘So far as is reasonably practicable’ is the new definition. The onus will be on the prosecution, not on the defendant as it is now. They will have to prove you didn’t do everything you should have done. They are adding in vehicle standards. This means the maintenance of the vehicles, their roadworthiness will be under scrutiny by other parties in the chain. They have an obligation to ensure standards.”
This does not mean the shipper will want to crawl around under the truck, but if they see something which is not right, they will have an obligation to report it to the operator and ask them what they are going to do about it.
“I did an investigation, where a husband and wife were both executive officers of the company,” recalls Kym. “I asked her what she did in the company and she admitted she brought in sandwiches and tea to board meetings. In that situation, it is not good enough – anyone in that position has to know what the business is about.”