Who’s Responsible?

Talking Turkey About Trucking

Apparently, there are some chain of responsibility laws in place in Australia. We are told the rules make the responsibility fall on whichever party involved in the supply chain forced the hand of the truck driver to break the rules. These rules have been in place for over ten years now and, for most people, nothing has changed.

There was great promise when the rules were introduced, a clear line of blame could be drawn from the unfortunate overloaded truckie, to the big bad consignor who forced the issue and made the truck overloaded. Once this line was drawn the baddie would have the full force of the law descend on them.

Recognise this picture? Is this what is going on today? No, apart from in a few very specific areas, in particular sectors. The ubiquitous overloading of grain trucks has been stopped, to a large extent. This was certainly low hanging fruit and massive overloading was rife, the way business was done.

Most grain moving about in Australia has to go over a GrainCorp weighbridge at some point in its journey. Getting the records from the weighbridges dotted all over our land and collating them with vehicle records would have put the wind up quite a few people. The figures were damning and the publicity made many sit up and take notice.

The introduction of the Compliance and Enforcement Laws over ten years ago didn’t get past the attention of experts in the field. They were able to go to the big corporates and offer themselves as advisors to examine their exposure to prosecution under the new COR rules. Some panic ensued, and procedures and facilities were put into place, distancing the consignors and consignees from any issues.

Was much change detected by the people directly affected at the coalface? Drivers will tell you, the COR has improved facilities in some places, made paperwork a bit more complicated and, on the whole changed very little.

There have been no major prosecutions for a long time and most people working in the industry regard COR as something of a white elephant and pay it very little heed. This could well be borne out by the response to the National Transport Commission’s call for submissions to discuss how it can improve COR regulations. The closing date for submissions is August 7 and the NTC web site tells us precisely zero submissions have been received. Of course, the NTC has gone around the usual suspects and got some face to face feedback from the likes of the ATA and ALRTA.

Feedback from the discussions seems to be quite positive and there is some hope of tightening up the rules and a some consensus on how COR should function. Yes, the rules look likely to change and there should be an improved focus on the areas of concern. The question we need to ask is, probably, will anyone on the ground notice any change?