On 1 October 2018, changes to the Chain of Responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law were introduced. However, eight months down the track, business owners involved in the chain of responsibility are still struggling to understand what they are required to do under those changes.
Under Section 26E(1) of the new Chain of Responsibility provisions, you as a business owner must not ask, direct or require (directly or indirectly) a party in the chain of responsibility to do or not do something that would have the effect of causing the driver of a vehicle to:
- exceed a speed limit applying to the driver; or
- drive a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle while impaired by fatigue or in breach of the driver’s work and rest hours option.
In addition, under Section 26E(2), you as a business owner must not enter into a contract with the driver of a heavy vehicle or a party in the chain of responsibility that you know (or ought reasonably to know) would have the effect of causing or encouraging the driver or encouraging a party in the chain of responsibility to cause the driver to exceed a speed limit or drive while impaired or in breach of work and rest hours.
Breaching either of these sections carries a maximum penalty of $1.1 million.
It could also constitute a breach of your primary duty under section 26C of the Heavy Vehicle National Law to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of transport activities in the chain of responsibility. If your conduct exposed an individual, such as a truck driver, pedestrian or other road user, to a risk of death or serious injury or illness, you could be guilty of Category 1 offence, which carries a maximum penalty of $300,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for individuals and $3 million for corporations.
Given these hefty deterrents, some business owners are going to extreme lengths to ensure that drivers delivering to their business are complying with the Heavy Vehicle National Law. However, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is concerned about business owners overreacting and going “over-the-top”, pressuring drivers and trucking companies to provide information that they simply do not need to see.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, where we will identify some of these “over-the-top” practices and, as an alternative, provide our own simple, practical suggestions for business owners looking to minimise their potential liability. You can contact our Business Law team in Bathurst, Lithgow and Oberon on 1800 650 656. We’re here to help!
Aaron Strickland | Solicitor