After twenty years of CoR we are finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Another stepping stone has appeared this week, as the trucking industry and its regulators set about changing the world one piece at a time. The latest piece in the jigsaw which will see, on completion, rational regulation of the trucking industry, is the Master Industry Code of Practice.
It is an agreed method of ensuring the procedures anyone operating in the supply chain is covering all of the bases in terms of the chain of responsibility. The past twenty years have been fraught with ongoing issues and a regulatory framework unable to achieve what it said it had set out to achieve.
The ongoing problems with CoR have seen the regulations not be capable of targeting those who it needs to target and, at the same time, targeting those who it was not supposed to target. The latest changes to the law, introduced earlier on this year, make CoR more likely to be effective in its targeting.
The introduction of the Master Code makes it possible for trucking operators to avoid being the unwitting fall-guys when some form of CoR prosecution takes place.
The original intention of the CoR rules was to address the massive disparity between the organisations with all of the economic power in the supply chain and those, with no economic power, who actually handle a large part of the road transport duties associated with that supply chain.
The idea was to stop big companies bullying smaller companies into pushing the legal limits to get their goods where and when they needed them. The concept seems simple and obvious, the solution was far from it.
CoR, for the first 15 years of its life was a big stick used to beat those who could not do anything about it. There were a few sectors of the transport game which saw some real change from which there was some safety and legal benefit.
The most obvious one would be the loading, unloading and weighing practices at grain stores, where a prosecution of a big player did get up. One of the very few. The second was some improvement in the conditions and procedures for trucks at the big distribution centres, as the big boys paid lip service to the CoR rules.
However, on the bigger scale, very little changed. The amount of paperwork an individual driver had to fill out and handle increased, but it was still the smaller operations where prosecutions took place. The transport company was still the most likely target when any breaches were detected.
The changes to the CoR law was a breakthrough, taking a new perspective on the whole issue and aimed at targeting unsafe practice and procedures at source and not necessarily out on the road. The smaller road transport operator was still at risk however, because the big boys could afford the more expensive lawyers and had the resources to write the rule book themselves.
The Master Code does address this issue to a certain extent, enabling smaller operations to make their procedures fit within a template of compliance which should protect them from the worst consequences of any action.
So far, so good. it all works in theory. Let’s just wait and see how this all plays out, whether safety outcomes are improved and the big bullies get hauled into court. When this does happen, there will genuinely be a light at the end of the tunnel.