There has been long-established the principle of ‘duty of care’ and this has formed the basis of Occupational Health and Safety legislation in the workplace for many years. More recently, the Heavy Vehicle National Law has extended this principle to transport law under its Chain of Responsibility legislation.
The effect of this is that, if road laws are breached, it is no longer just the driver or owner of a commercial vehicle who may be considered liable. There is now shared responsibility and so this liability can extend to anyone who is involved in the despatch of goods on that vehicle, from the consignor who sends the goods through to the consignee who receives them and anyone in between who has any role in the transportation.
Such people include the owner and driver, those packing and loading the goods, the scheduler of the consignment, the unloader and all their managers.
Everyone who has any control or influence over a transport task has a responsibility to ensure that it is undertaken properly and safely. If not, those deemed responsible for breaches of the law are liable to sanctions that range from formal warnings to fines and penalties for any commercial benefit that arose from the breach.
Persistent or systematic offences can even lead to those individuals responsible being prevented from working in the transport industry.
Chain of responsibility is now so wide-ranging and the penalties so severe that it is in the interests of all affected persons and businesses to undergo the appropriate training. This is not just restricted to the transport industry but to all those who are affected by it — which is, really, just about every business.
Since many parties can be considered responsible for offences that are committed during heavy goods vehicle operations, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has advised that they should all take reasonable steps to ensure offences don’t occur. These include:
Legal responsibility can apply to any actions, inactions and demands so it’s not just what you do, it’s also what you ask others to do and what you fail to do. That extends to reporting any Chain of Responsibility issues and taking actions that can include stopping an activity, reviewing and assessing the risk, making changes to operate safely and creating systems to ensure future breaches don’t occur.
Records need to be kept to prove that issues have been dealt with and action taken to prevent a reoccurrence. Only by doing things properly can you guard against possible action under Chain of Responsibility legislation.
Like most legislation, Chain of Responsibility changes periodically and so you need to keep up-to-date to avoid inadvertent breaches. Regular training and updates can ensure this and make you fully aware of your responsibilities so you don’t fall foul of the law.