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Driven to despair – your liability for your drivers’ actions

June 30, 2016

What happens when, despite your best efforts to ensure Chain of Responsibility (CoR) compliance, one of your drivers, who has had all the appropriate training surrounding speeding and fatigue rules, causes an accident?

Will you be investigated automatically, or is this something you can legitimately say is the driver’s fault?

If a serious incident or breach occurs, you can expect to be investigated by the relevant road safety authority. The authorities (e.g. Roads and Maritime Services, VicRoads, Main Roads, etc.) will often seek to attend the scene and conduct interviews of relevant persons, typically alongside the police.

Following that, the authorities will often issue a direction to provide information in relation to the circumstances surrounding the incident and any steps taken in response.

The authorities may also ask you to produce company records, such as copies of your business’s:

  • chain of responsibility policy;
  • internal compliance documents, e.g. communication and training records for employees;
  • external compliance documents, e.g. CoR notices to business partners and contractors; and
  • documents relating to the specific incident, e.g. driver work records.

The authorities will assess your responses to these notices and make a decision as to whether or not to lay charges. So, it is important for any responses you make to be well considered and complete, as most times this is the one and only chance that your business will have to convince the authorities not to prosecute you.

Given that the underlying principle of the CoR is that all parties are responsible for a breach committed by any one party, there is generally not a certain class of acts that will simply be treated as the driver’s fault.

Further, under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, an employer is automatically vicariously liable for any offence committed by an employee.

In addition, the authorities have almost unanimously expressed a desire to push CoR compliance further up the chain from drivers, so all other parties can expect an increased focus on their activities and enforcement.

Therefore, it pays to be vigilant in stressing the importance of having all your employees aware of their CoR responsibilities and that your supply chain partners are also doing their bit.

For more help and guidance on how you can achieve this, subscribe to the CoR Adviser, a monthly newsletter written in plain English by transport law experts at Holding Redlich. That way, if you do get a knock on your door by the regulator, you’ll be fully prepared.