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Why Are Drug Drivers A Chain of Responsibility Issue?

July 2, 2015

In the past month, we kept you in the loop with Operation Austrans, the nationwide annual police operation that brings the full force of the law to bear on road transport safety issues.

Across Australia, police checkpoints were set up to put both drivers and their vehicles to the test. Now, the results are in – and officials are concerned.

Overall police stopped nearly 75,000 vehicles, and booked:

  • 574 speeding offences;
  • 323 unlicensed drivers;
  • 7739 vehicle standard/roadworthiness breaches;
  • 3416 mass, dimension or load restraint breaches;
  • 145 vehicles fitted with illegal devices that tamper with speed limiters;
  • 190 drivers who were impaired by alcohol, or tested positive for drugs.

Consequences down the chain…
When we looked at the stats from previous Austrans stings, it didn’t take a crystal ball to anticipate that off-road parties would also be in the gun for their chain of responsibility breaches.

And indeed, the operation has led to 238 charges for fatigue offences committed by other CoR parties, and 76 charges for breaches of mass, dimension and load restraint rules by CoR parties.

Without a doubt, authorities will be looking at the patterns behind those speeding offences too – and looking into whether operators, employers, consignors or consignees were inducing drivers to speed.

More than ever, the message is clear – even if you and your business don’t own or operate heavy vehicles, you could face heavy penalties for what they do on the road…

The story behind the drug stats…

154 of the 7,531 drivers that agreed to undergo drug tests in Operation Austrans came back positive for illicit substances. It’s a small proportion of all drivers – but a scary one.Ultimately, drivers are legally responsible for what they choose to put in their own bodies. And the COR provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) don’t include specific duties on drugs.

But if drivers are using illegal drugs to combat fatigue, that raises burning questions – and potential liability – for others in the chain.

Fatigue management is about more than whether a driver’s work diary or log book stacks up. Under the HVNL, a court may consider a driver to be impaired by fatigue even if they complied with their maximum work requirements and minimum rest requirements.

This means that substantively, operators, managers and schedulers must take all reasonable steps to ensure drivers do not work while impaired by fatigue.

Employers must ensure their drivers’ medical fitness to drive.

Consignors and consignees cannot set delivery requirements that will require or encourage drivers to drive while impaired by fatigue.

And loading managers, loaders and packers must ensure that their work will not contribute or cause a driver to drive if impaired by fatigue.

Are you managing the risks?

When it comes to fatigue and your other CoR duties, it’s essential to begin by conducting an effective assessment of your risks.

Subscribers to CoR Adviser can learn how to conduct a CoR risk assessment plan of their own, and download template assessment plans to adapt for their business. 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