When it comes to Chain of Responsibility (CoR) compliance, simply being compliant is not enough.
You must document your compliance, so you can demonstrate that you have done what you are supposed to have done.
There are many reasons why it is important to do this, 4 key reasons include:
It assists in training and awareness.
Documenting your compliance policies and procedures assists in communicating them within your business and to relevant parties throughout your supply chain.
It is a mandatory component of pitching for tenders.
Compliance is increasingly becoming a mandatory selection criterion in tenders and a mandatory performance term in all supply chain contracts. It must be demonstrated or proved to secure work or respond to allegations of default.
Your compliance procedures may be tested in court.
If your operations are investigated or you are prosecuted in court, you will have to demonstrate to the regulators/court that you have complied with your obligations.
You are legally obligated to maintain and keep records.
Certain provisions of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) require you to retain records for a mandatory period of at least three years.
1. Assisting training and awareness
Under the HVNL, you are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that your employees are suitably trained in CoR compliance. You are also required to take all reasonable steps to exercise control or influence over the compliance conduct of third parties in your supply chain.
Spreading the ‘news’ evangelically by word-of-mouth is going to be a poor delivery method to reach the many people who make up your target audience. Also, delivering your CoR compliance procedures solely by word-of-mouth runs a greater risk that the message will be changed and miscommunicated as it is passed from one party to another.
Committing your policy, procedures and training and awareness materials to writing (and this includes electronic ‘writing’ in the form of induction videos) ensures that they are easy to disseminate to a wide audience, their message remains clear and the same, no matter how many times they are passed on and hopefully this means that they are interpreted and implemented consistently.
2. Assisting tendering and contract performance management
As the CoR message spreads throughout all sectors and right up and down the Chain, CoR compliance performance is increasingly becoming a focus of contracting.
It is now common to see CoR compliance as a pre-condition to the award of tenders or contracts in the construction, projects and logistics sectors. Principal contractors, project owners and importers and distributors of goods are increasingly wanting assurance that their subcontractors are CoR compliant before they are willing to engage them.
When tendering for work then, it is important that you are able to produce CoR compliance records, which paint a positive picture of your awareness of and compliance with your obligations. Obviously, your policies, procedures and training materials discussed above will be relevant.
In addition, being able to produce records of compliance inspections, audits and CoR compliance performance figures will help you paint a positive picture, too.
Likewise, after a contract has been awarded, most supply chain contracts now contain terms that penalise you for CoR breaches.
The HVNL implicitly requires every supply chain contract to contain CoR compliance clauses and the courts have consistently indicated that they wish to see contractual penalties imposed for CoR breaches.
If your counterpart alleges a CoR breach, it is important that you are able to refute this by producing transport documentation records that demonstrate compliance. Alternatively, if you are in breach, it will be important for you to be able to demonstrate that you have taken steps to remedy the breach and reduce the risk of recurrence.
3. Assisting in investigations
If the regulators come knocking or you are ‘invited’ to court, you had better have your house in order.
The regulators are unlikely to accept your word at face value and will likely require you to produce hard evidence to back up what you say. In order to be persuasive, usually this must be in the form of documents created at the time of the relevant conduct.
Even better, if you are able to demonstrate to the regulators that you are doing your best to comply, rather than that your business does not have any compliance framework in place, they are more likely to work with you to plug any gap, rather than take you to court. Having strong, complete and easily producible documentary compliance materials to hand can help you avoid ever going to court in the first place.
If you do end up in court, courts are usually only persuaded by objective independent evidence and documents are usually accepted as the best evidence.
4. It’s the law
Last but not least, any document required to be kept under the HVNL and (under s623) any risk and hazard assessment relating to speed and fatigue management, must be kept for a minimum period of three years. It is a breach punishable by penalty/prosecution if you fail to keep those records.
So, while ‘doing’ is undoubtedly supremely important, don’t ever overlook the benefit of ‘being seen to be doing’ or being able to demonstrate that you have done something.
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