In the lead-up to the introduction of new Chain of Responsibility (CoR) obligations in July next year, the trucking industry needs to be sure it is getting it right. Diesel News runs through the basics, which operators need to be sure of going into operation on a daily basis.
Talking to a room full of small operators at a freight facility, Kym Farquharson-Jones, Senior Advisor – Chain of Responsibility, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), uses her experience as a Queensland police officer and as roadside enforcement for Transport and Main Roads (TMR) in Queensland to colour her message and explain the situation.
There are four areas where an owner-driver needs to be concerned about risks. The first is the truck itself, then the load the truck is carrying, the road the truck is using and the person who is driving it.
Risks from the vehicle come from safety standards. By running through a checklist at the start of the journey it is possible to reduce risk around the condition of the vehicle. Does it meet the safety standards and the dimension requirements? Is it within axle and weight regulations? Is the load correctly restrained, and the vehicle and load okay for the route it’s going to take? When it’s out on the road, is it within speed limits?
Answer yes to this set of questions and the owner and driver of the truck have done all things possible to reduce risk of committing an offence and being open to CoR action.
For anyone who owns a truck there is a level of maintenance and recording of that maintenance which has to be done to meet the rules. The daily check needs to be effective. It has to be a robust enough check to ensure the truck is alright to go on the road. The driver needs to be able to check the things they are able to look at.
The rules simply say a person must not drive a truck on a road if it is unsafe.
“Mass, dimension and loading have provisions in the rules which are all the same,” says Kym. “You mustn’t get too caught up in the words, you can replace mass with loading, or loading with dimension.
“It’s a big bunch of text which really says it’s up to the driver to make sure the mass complies with mass requirements. The obligation is still on the driver. The interesting thing is there are no longer ‘reasonable steps’. It just says, without a reasonable excuse. It’s important to stress, the changes in the CoR rules have new penalties, but the penalties for drivers have not been affected.”
The National Transport Commission (NTC) is currently renewing the Load Restraint Guide and, in the meantime, it has published a draft guide. The consultation process has now ended and the new guide looks set to be passed by transport ministers in their next meeting in November. After that, it should be handed over to the NHVR to be introduced to the industry and roadside enforcement in the run-up to the new CoR laws coming online next July.
The changes to the rules seem to be in line with current thinking, but are not expected to be a major departure from the current guidelines. The language and illustrations are reckoned to be easier to understand and presented clearly for the industry. However, the small operator community will need to be aware of any changes and ensure its load-securing methods are brought up to speed.
Boiling the issue of loading down to its basics, the way the CoR rules will look at it, loading any type of freight poses the same questions. Is the load restraint going to stop any unacceptable movement? The restraint must stop the load becoming dislodged. Any movement of freight must be limited and must not adversely affect the stability of the vehicle.
The hauling of shipping containers has caused a certain amount of concern, in terms of vehicle stability, as the truck driver has no control or knowledge of how the container was packed. This is likely to pose some difficult CoR questions.