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Roadworthiness: COR’s next frontier?

April 23, 2015

In our first issue of the CoR Adviser newsletter, we highlighted the deadline for submissions on the National Transport Commission’s consultation impact statement on heavy vehicle roadworthiness.

Since then, industry stakeholders have offered valuable feedback on the proposals that document contained.

Until now, chain of responsibility law has not extended to the complicated matter of heavy vehicle roadworthiness. The standard to which vehicles are maintained and repaired can vary from state to state – but the consequences of a dangerous vehicle on the road are one and the same.

Of the four options the Commission has canvassed for improving Australia’s heavy vehicle roadworthiness system, two involved changes to CoR. The option it believes would deliver the “highest net benefit” would see the introduction of a new specific CoR duty to the HVNL that would require responsible parties (including off-road parties) to take all reasonable steps to ensure vehicles are not driven in a condition that is unsafe or unroadworthy.

While there is a willingness to contemplate CoR changes among industry groups, how these should progress is a matter of debate.

For example, the Australian Trucking Association supports a phased approach to CoR reform where initial use of chain of responsibility enforcement powers is backed with uniform defect processes and improved accreditation schemes. However, it argues further reform should be evidence-based.

And the Australian Logistics Council notes that the Commission’s conversation about roadworthiness and CoR is happening at the same time that the Commission is undertaking a separate review of CoR duties.

Its take is that the convenience and certainty of businesses, CoR changes be addressed and presented together, and that any such change should be subject to an appropriate cost-benefit analysis.

It also notes that as long as the quality of inspections varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the question of what makes a vehicle “roadworthy” could vary as well.

It is almost certain that industry and regulators will look to harmonise the existing vehicle standards for inspections, education and training. But whether this leads to CoR changes is less certain.

Our team will keep you updated as the situation evolves.

Until next time,
The CoR Adviser Team