Paul Bond, Director of Heavy Vehicle Operations, Main Roads
On 27 April 2015, Western Australia introduced CoR provisions in its road transport law, a step that brought it into line with most other Australian states and territories. As the state regulator for heavy vehicles, Paul Bond has had to coordinate extensive education about the law’s introduction. He explains to Joseph Nunweek how it differs from CoR rules elsewhere.
Q WA has developed its own chain of responsibility framework sometime after the Australian states. What were the unique challenges in WA in order to introduce a model?
A There was a delay in implementation of the compliance and enforcement legislation in WA due to a number of factors, including changes in government over many years. Then, towards the latter part of the introduction of the legislation, there were delays in the drafting. Another challenge was ensuring we covered the vast state of WA to convene CoR information sessions.
But the delays were actually a positive − they allowed us an opportunity to provide state-wide information sessions over a longer period of time.
Our biggest focus in WA has been on education over enforcement. There was a strong perception out there that we were going to enforce rather than educate. In fact, we have spent an inordinate amount of time reassuring everyone that education is a key component. However, we will target people in the chain who systematically and persistently commit mass, dimension and load breaches.
Q WA has limited the focus of its CoR implementation to mass, dimension and load restraint duties. Were speed and fatigue also considered?
A In the beginning, speed and fatigue were considered, however it was clear from the start that WA would only need to implement mass, dimension and load restraint duties in its CoR legislation. This is because fatigue management is presently covered by WorkSafe WA (the state’s workplace health and safety regulator) while speed is covered by WA Police.
Therefore, from a road agency perspective, Main Roads WA has no legislative power to enforce those provisions around speed and fatigue. We deal with these breaches through continual cooperation to address non-compliance.
Q Another interesting point of distinction is that CoR in WA doesn’t have a Gross Vehicle Mass limit. Has that encountered some resistance?
A Within WA, the mass, dimension and load restraint limits relate to both light and heavy vehicles. Many reported road incidents in WA relate to goods falling off light vehicles on our road network, causing crashes and disruptions to all road users. Overall, the heavy vehicle industry is compliant with load restraint use, as most operators are trained or have experience with restraining loads.
We have had no resistance from industry or general road users for the inclusion of light vehicles in the legislation, and light vehicle drivers are now more aware of the need to safely restrain loads.
Q The sense I have is that the response to CoR in WA has been largely positive so far. What do you think played a role in having that change go so smoothly?
A We were lucky, as many operators have had experience with the legislation in other states, so they were aware of mass, dimension and load requirements. Some of the larger corporate companies who operate interstate have taken the opportunity to use systems and processes they have already been developed elsewhere.
We have consistently consulted with our heavy vehicle industry associations and utilised their vast network to get the message out there. More importantly, we’ve advised that if they are doing the right thing now, nothing will change for them.
The uptake for our information sessions has been outstanding. We have travelled to all parts of WA, which is a challenge in itself, while giving in excess of 140 presentations to rural communities, including mining, farming and other road user groups.
One of the biggest challenges is dealing with some of the myths and misinformation that’s getting out there. Some of the things we’ve heard are just incredible. Examples include claims that people will be fined or have been prosecuted for having loose dog biscuits on the back of utes, for gumboots falling off a ute, or for not having a dog restrained.
We’ve checked with both our transport inspectors and the police, and there’s been no evidence to substantiate these types of incidents. Luckily, by providing information sessions, we have put a lot of the myths to bed and have stopped a lot of these false rumours.
Q What’s next for CoR and road transport safety development in WA? Will roadworthiness and vehicle standards be added to the existing regulations?
A We are fortunate to have a strong and healthy working relationship with our eastern state counterparts where we share experiences, trends and issues.
Although WA is not part of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, we are always involved in discussions on heavy vehicle safety issues and included in meetings, workshops and forums to identify and address national and local heavy vehicle safety trends.
While WA is not looking at introducing roadworthiness or vehicle standards as part of CoR in the immediate future, we would consider these aspects if they could positively contribute to effective road safety outcomes.