If you run a heavy vehicle transport business or operate a company that is part of a supply chain in which goods are transported by heavy vehicle, you’ll know that risks exist – because moving goods by road, rail, air or sea is not an exact science.
Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to expect that one day you may receive a ‘please explain’ from the regulator in your jurisdiction. If so, if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ll more than likely have to prove an ‘all reasonable steps defence’.
And that’s where it can become tricky because ‘reasonable’ is such a subjective term. But if you concentrate on meeting the regulators’ requirements of what they determine to be ‘reasonable’, you will stand a better chance of being found not guilty of any chain of responsibility (CoR) breach.
Where to start
In order for an ‘all reasonable steps’ defence to be successful, you must be able to show that you took all reasonable steps – not just cherry-picked a few that were easy to implement, thinking them to be good enough.
However, before a successful ‘all reasonable steps’ can occur, you will need to know all the steps you have to take, too. That also requires you to know what the regulator will expect of you and your company.
The regulator will want to know that your company’s practices can identify, assess and control any situation that puts at risk the safety of a driver or other road users.
In order to do that, your business practices need to strike that balance of being comprehensive yet flexible enough to respond to changes in risks and circumstances.
What the regulator will look for in a reasonable steps defence
Some of the examples of reasonable steps the regulator has noted include:
- conducting regular audits of work schedules and work records;
- regularly review business activities, processes, policies and written instructions;
- identifying how best to manage outcomes to prevent offences; and
- implementing processes to use when things go wrong.
That’s a lot of work for you to do, especially if you’re just starting out in the business. Thankfully, the CoR Adviser, a monthly newsletter written by the transport law experts at Holding Redlich, is full of information, advice, tips, downloadable documents and answers from our helpdesk to help you prepare for any investigation, or know that you and your business are legally doing your best.
It’s a small investment in your company’s security and will help you to fully understand your legal CoR obligations under the HVNL.
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