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If the CoR investigator pays a house call…

July 23, 2015

We’ve written to you before about when a chain of responsibility investigation can come back to bite your business.

Big, combined initiatives like Operation Austrans involve roadside stops and checks which can lead back to operators, employers, loading managers and other chain of responsibility parties.

And of course, if the aftermath of a critical road incident suggests that a breach of a CoR duty was at issue, you can expect a similar level of scrutiny.

But did you know that regulators in NSW are now paying house calls? Distribution centres (DCs) are becoming a focus for officers checking for speed, fatigue management, mass, dimension and load restraint breaches.

It’s a reminder that off-road parties have obligations when it comes to what happens on-road. And they’re being enforced.

Road and Maritime Services strike in southwest Sydney

On 8 July, Road and Maritime Services (RMS) inspectors descended on a DC in Sydney, inspecting both the loaded trucks that were on their way out the gates, and those vehicles arriving for unloading.

All in all, they issued 31 infringements and 12 charges concerning:

  • Licence and registration defects;
  • Load and mass defects, and;
  • Fatigue management and work diary breaches.

What’s more, they downloaded the Engine Control Modules of five vehicles. Two were found to have tampered speed limiters, allowing speeds of over 100km.

Senior police and RMS officers subsequently met with the DC’s managers for a ‘please explain’ chat where their responsibility – and liability – for CoR breaches was very clearly hit home.

The many duties in a distribution centre

It’s no wonder that regulators are taking these ‘snapshots’ of how DCs are complying overall with CoR obligations.

At any time, a busy DC with multiple heavy vehicles arriving and leaving engages the duties of almost every CoR party.

Drivers must comply with fatigue management laws and procedures, take their required rest breaks, and accurately record their work time in a work diary. They also have to ensure they comply with mass and dimension limits, and ensure their load is properly restrained – even if they do not load the vehicle themselves.

Consignors must make sure loads remain within dimension and mass limits and are restrained, and cannot send drivers out with pick-up or delivery requirements that incentivise a driver to breach CoR duties.

Operators, managers and schedulers must keep records of drivers’ activities, carefully plan rosters so as to not require drivers to speed or drive excess hours, and take all reasonable drivers do not work while fatigued. This will include providing a suitable, quiet place for drivers to rest.

They may also need to provide instruction, training and supervision to drivers and other employees regarding their duties, and check that speed limiters haven’t been interfered with.

Packers, loaders and loading managers need to ensure that documentation about loading is accurate, that mass and dimension limits are complied with, and that loads are stable. Loading managers also need to ensure that vehicles are loaded and unloaded as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that driver schedules are not unreasonably impacted and delayed.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of every CoR duties these parties face – but it does go to show that the distribution centre is very much the coalface of CoR. Countless decisions are made there that will save lives and prevent accidents down the line.

So it’s no wonder that these inspections will continue into the next year – and regulators in other jurisdictions will be watching, too.

In the meantime, would your business be compliant if an inspector called tomorrow?

Subscribers to the monthly CoR Adviser can read about their rights if directed to provide information or documents under the HVNL in next month’s issue. Click here to sign up for a free 30-day trial of CoR Adviser.

Until next time,

J.Nunweek signature
Joseph Nunweek

Editor, CoR Bulletin