Many working in the trucking industry are looking for a comprehensive owner driver guide to CoR (Chain of Responsibility) legislation and the implication for individual operators. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has been running a series of seminars to get the message out there about the new rules.
Talking to a room full of small operators in the Truganina facility, Kym Farquharson-Jones, NHVR Senior Advisor – Chain of Responsibility, 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 Load Restraint Guide is currently being renewed by the National Transport Commission (NTC) and in the meantime it has published a draft guide. 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 in 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.
The driver has to be mentally and physically fit to do the task. Fatigue, drugs and alcohol must not be affecting the driver. For the owner-driver, this applies to the owner themselves, but employing someone puts the onus on the employer to ensure the driver is fit and able.
Drivers think of the work diary as being the most important part of fatigue management, making sure the diary is right and compliant is of paramount importance to many in the industry.
“Yes, getting the diary right is important,” says Kym. “The most important component of fatigue is managing fatigue. The legislation defines fatigue as feeling sleepy, tired or exhausted. We all know it’s not limited to this. Once you start to feel like this, it’s actually too late. You need to manage your fatigue, as a driver, much earlier. You need to be aware of when you start to lose energy; it needs to be managed before it gets to the sleepy stage.
“The other part of it is in managing compliance. You have to be sure you are managing work records. Yes, you keep a record, but you have to be able to convince your employer, you’ve complied with the conditions of the law.”