If your business has anything to do with goods that are transported by a heavy vehicle, it may face a raft of duties and penalties under the new HVNL.

Whether your business consigns goods that are transported by heavy vehicles, packs the goods, loads or unloads the goods, it may soon have a duty to ensure the safety of transport activities relating to the vehicle.

The Chain of Responsibility (COR) provisions within the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) came into effect on 1 October 2018 and Steadfast Broker Technical Manager Michael White says it's important for all businesses to investigate whether they could be affected.

“You can be guilty of an offence even though you personally had very little involvement in an incident,” White says. “And there are very heavy penalties.”

“You can be guilty of an offence even though you personally had very little involvement in an incident”

Heavy Vehicle National Law

The Heavy Vehicle National Law commenced in 2014 in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

Each state and territory applies the law in a slightly different way, but in each jurisdiction the legislation applies to heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass.

It covers vehicle standards, mass dimensions and loadings, fatigue management, heavy vehicle accreditation and on-road enforcement.

Chain of Responsibility provisions

The COR provisions mean that it's not just the driver and the operator of a heavy vehicle who are responsible for breaches of the HVNL in all jurisdictions (except the Northern Territory and Western Australia).

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) states that responsible parties also include:

  • An employer of a driver
  • A prime contractor for a vehicle if the vehicle's driver is self-employed
  • An operator of the vehicle
  • A scheduler for the vehicle
  • A loading manager for any goods in the vehicle
  • A loader and/or unloader of a vehicle
  • A consignor of any goods for transport by the vehicle
  • A consignee of any goods in the vehicle
  • A loader and/or unloader of any goods in the vehicle

White notes that this means there are many, many more scenarios under which businesses may be responsible for HVNL breaches.

“If an accident involved a truck carrying your stock – say your washing machines – then you could be guilty of an offence,” he says.

The regulator states some examples of situations in which the COR could apply include:

  • If a heavy vehicle driver breaches fatigue management requirements, speed limits, or dimension and loading requirements
  • If a schedulers' business practices place unrealistic timeframes on drivers which cause them to exceed their work rest options
  • If a loading managers' business practices, including loading/unloading times, cause the driver to exceed the speed limit
  • Where instructions, actions or demands to parties in the supply chain cause or contribute to an offence under the HVNL

Penalties

Breaches of the HVNL COR provisions carry heavy penalties. For individuals, the maximum penalty is a $300,000 fine or five years' imprisonment, or both. Corporations face a fine of up to $3 million.

But the total cost of a breach is likely to be much greater.

“The legal costs could be  double that,” White warns.

Insurance and risk management

To help understand your responsibilities and protect your business against these risks, White recommends seeking good legal advice.

He also suggests reaching out to a Steadfast broker who specialises in heavy transport.

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