When facing prosecution for an offence under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), you may be able to claim the ‘all reasonably practicable steps’ defence.
So how does it apply to speeding or fatigue management offences?
Under the HVNL, an organisation must adopt business practices that will not require, cause or encourage a driver to either exceed the speed limit or drive while fatigued.
Business practices are defined to include the operating policies and procedures of the business, the human resources and contract management of the business, and arrangements for managing safety.
The varying business activities of the different parties of the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) mean that ‘business practices’ will vary significantly.
However, there are some things all parties in the CoR can do to ensure they are meeting their obligations.
5 reasonably practicable steps you can take to prevent speeding
- Regularly consulting other parties in the CoR to address compliance issues.
- Reviewing driving, work and trip records.
- Having a program in place to report and monitor (e.g. by GPS tracking) incidents of speeding, speeding and related risks and hazards.
- Training and providing information about speeding for drivers of heavy vehicles, staff and parties in the CoR for heavy vehicles.
- Ensuring regular maintenance of vehicle components that relate to adhering to speed limits (e.g. the speedometer, engine management systems and speed limiters).
Reasonably practicable steps for schedulers
Schedulers for heavy vehicles must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the schedule will not cause the driver to exceed speed or fatigue limits.
Reasonably practicable steps that schedulers can take include:
- consulting drivers about their schedules and their work-related requirements;
- taking into account the average speed that can be travelled lawfully on scheduled routes;
- allowing for poor traffic conditions or other delays in schedules; and
- implementing contingency plans for schedules.
Reasonably practicable steps for loading managers
Loading managers must similarly take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the arrangements for loading and unloading goods will not cause the driver of the heavy vehicle to exceed speed or fatigue limits.
Reasonably practicable steps that loading managers can take include:
- reviewing loading and unloading times, and delays at loading and unloading places;
- identifying potential loading and unloading congestion in consultation with drivers and other parties in the CoR; and
- having a system of setting and allocating agreed loading and unloading times on which the driver can reasonably rely.
What you must consider when developing a schedule
When devising a schedule, it is important that you do the following things:
|If drivers are detected speeding, they may be tempted to advise traffic control officers that they are speeding to keep within the schedule imposed by another party in the CoR. Drivers are less likely to take this view if they feel they are at least partially responsible for the scheduling and that it has not been imposed upon them unreasonably.|
|You must apply some science when scheduling vehicles to take into account allowed and realistic average speeds in anticipated traffic conditions for the journey. It is important that your CoR policy specifies that you will take these factors into account when allocating schedules and journey plans, and that you will keep records showing how you have made the assessments and calculations.|
|Truck movements include time spent loading and unloading and journey time and required breaks. It is not surprising that schedulers wish to minimise time spent loading and unloading, however the degree of control may vary according to whether the scheduler is in a position to control the loading or unloading process. Contingency arrangements should be in place for drivers, loading managers, consignees and consignors that encourage compliance rather than penalise non-compliance.|
There is a fine line between measures designed to reward efficiency and those appearing to encourage speeding and driving whilst fatigued.
CoR policies should clearly state that it is not the intention to reward speeding or driving whilst fatigued and that any instances of speeding or driving whilst fatigued will be dealt with severely.
A ‘three strikes policy’ should be applied to all parties in the CoR, and not just the individual driver.
Have you met all of your CoR duties?