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Chain of Responsibility: Managing Road Safety the Easiest Way

Chain of Responsibility: Managing Road Safety the Easiest Way

Oct 17th 2022

Chain of Responsibility: Managing Road Safety the Easiest Way

One hundred seventy-seven people lost their lives in crashes involving heavy trucks in Australia in 2020, a decrease of 6.8 percent compared with the total in 2019, according to the Road Trauma Involving Heavy Vehicles 2020 Statistical Summary.

While this is good news, heavy trucks are still involved in a disproportionate number of severe road accidents. The chain of responsibility legislation under the Heavy Vehicle National Law is a safety management system introduced to manage these casualties.

What is Chain of Responsibility (CoR)?

Chain of Responsibility (CoR) is a legal concept that places obligations on the transport supply chain parties introduced in the early 2000s. CoR aims to improve safety and compliance outcomes in the transport industry.

On October 1, 2018, amendments to Australia's Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) came into force, which includes changes in the chain of responsibility. The changes require organisations that use heavy vehicles in their business dealings to take a more proactive approach to safety.

It now has more wide-ranging powers and tougher penalties for breaches. Everyone in the supply chain, on and off the road, is accountable for transport safety, not only the driver. It means that company directors and management teams, consigners, dispatchers, loaders, contractors, and drivers, are all responsible for ensuring that road safety using heavy vehicles.

A heavy vehicle is a type of vehicle that has a gross vehicle mass of more than 4.5 tonnes, as defined by Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). It includes vehicles like:

  • trailer trucks
  • semi-trailer trucks
  • freight trucks
  • road trains
  • passenger buses
  • vehicle carriers
  • agricultural vehicles
  • mobile cranes
  • special purpose vehicles.

Road Train

Concept of the Chain of Responsibility

The "chain of responsibility" is a system of laws and regulations that assign responsibility for managing risks across the supply chain. The term refers to the relationships between different parties involved in transportation activities. This includes manufacturers, importers, suppliers, carriers, and drivers of vehicles.

CoR holds each transport chain member accountable for safe and legal transport. They must prevent breaches of the law, such as overloading or speeding. If any link in the chain fails to meet its obligations, they may be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages.

Key Areas of the Amended Chain of Responsibility

The chain of accountability was broadened to include regulatory compliance and key hazard management responsibilities, also called the focus areas. They are:

1. Speed

Speed is one of the most critical factors when operating any vehicle. It plays a role in minimising the severity of accidents. As such, speeding is a significant focus of the amended CoR regulations. The regulation requires operators to take all reasonable steps to ensure that their vehicles operate at safe speeds. This includes:

  • Monitoring the rate of vehicles
  • Setting and enforcing a speed limit
  • Ensuring drivers are trained correctly in speed management.

2. Fatigue

Fatigue can impair driver performance and decision-making, increasing the risk of mistakes. Some fatigue-related risks are driving for too long without taking a break, driving at night, or driving while sleepy. Operators should have systems in place to manage driver fatigue, like:

  • Ensuring that drivers have adequate rest breaks
  • Limiting the hours that they can spend behind the wheel
  • Monitoring driver performance
  • Providing training on fatigue management requirements

3. Mass, dimension, and loading

The Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension, and Loading) National Regulation specifies the mass and dimension limits for both single and combination vehicles. These standards apply to construction, performance, and size limits. Operators must take all reasonable steps to ensure their vehicles comply with these standards, which include:

  • Informing all parties of the vehicle mass and dimension constraints
  • Training drivers or parties on load security
  • Ensuring that loads or freights have the proper documentation and are loaded by trained parties
  • Restraining the load adequately
  • Placing and safely securing loads so that they won't fall or get loose
  • Ensuring that loads don't protrude from the vehicle in a way that could endanger other road users
  • Complying with the standards recommended in the National Transport Commission Load Restraint Guide and mass and dimension limits specified in the Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension, and Loading) National Regulation
  • Loading and unloading in a way that doesn't damage the vehicle or its load.

4. Vehicle Standards

Work vehicles must be in good condition to ensure the safety of both drivers and the loads they are carrying. Many incidents involving heavy vehicles were either poorly maintained, unsafe, or defective.

Employers, prime contractors, operators, loading managers, loaders, and unloaders must:

  • Adhere to relevant vehicle standards and Australian Design Rules
  • Conduct daily inspections to identify any defects that may have arisen since the last check
  • Maintain a record or logs of any vehicle defects observed
  • Set up scheduled maintenance times to rectify any issues.
  • Document maintenance activities to ensure compliance with all safety regulations
  • Adopt an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) where possible.

Parties in the Chain of Responsibility

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator defines the people involved in the chain of responsibility. They are:

  • Companies and individuals who hire, contract, schedule, pack, load, or unload heavy vehicles; and
  • Companies and individuals who own, operate, or manage a heavy vehicle.

Every time a business transports goods using a heavy vehicle, it has a responsibility to identify, assess, reduce, or eliminate safety risks. Anyone involved in the logistics and operation of a heavy vehicle operation is legally liable in the law. The Master Industry Code of Practice developed by Australia's National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) outlines their responsibilities under CoR laws.

Being a supply chain party is based on what you do, not a job title or contract. More than half of CoR's functions involve people and businesses without heavy vehicles. If your company transfers or receives items via heavy vehicle, you are responsible for their safety.

Truck supply chain management

Duties Under CoR

As defined by NHVR, CoR law "ensures everyone who works with heavy vehicles – from the business that employs a driver to the place where goods are delivered – is accountable for safety. " The chain of responsibility imposes obligations on a broad range of parties, from consignors and consignees to packers, loaders, drivers, operators, and schedulers.

The primary duty is the obligation "to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of your transport activities." Reasonably practicable means considering what an ordinary, reasonable person would think was appropriate in the situation. It's your judgment to decide what is right in each circumstance.

The chain of responsibility is similar to work health and safety laws. You must do everything possible to ensure the people involved in your transport activities are safe. This includes making sure the risks involved in these activities are:

  • identified
  • assessed
  • eliminated
  • minimised

Do not take any measures that could influence drivers and others to speed or break the HVNL. This includes direct requests or contract conditions, penalties or rewards, preferential treatment, or other words or acts that could cause or encourage a driver to break the rules.

Ways to Ensure Compliance with CoR

There are several ways you can make sure your company is complying with the chain of responsibility laws:

1. Establish a Safety Management System

Road safety risks can be more effectively managed by adopting a Safety Management System (SMS). An SMS is a systematic approach to managing safety, integrated throughout the business wherever possible. It should identify, assess and control risks and continually improve safety performance.

A SMS can help you:

  • Identify what are the needs to manage road safety risks
  • Set up systems and procedures to control operation
  • Monitor and measure whether the systems are working
  • Provide a safe working environment
  • Prevent incidents and injuries
  • Meet your safety duties under the HVNL
  • Improve your business performance.

2. Place appropriate control measures

Control measures are the things you do to minimise risks. They can range from simple changes to work methods or equipment to significantly redesigning facilities or work processes. Measures you can implement in complying with CoR include:

  • Conducting driver's induction training
  • Making modifications to the vehicle
  • Implementing regular self-auditing and inspections
  • Maintaining detailed and accurate records
  • Reviewing safety procedures.

3. Provide awareness and compliance training

You need to improve awareness of the HVNL among your workers and ensure they understand their compliance obligations. Compliance training will ensure that everyone in the transport supply chain party knows their duties and what they must do to comply. You can do this by:

  • Providing everyone with briefings and training on your policy and procedures
  • Giving refresher training periodically
  • Ensuring all new drivers and other CoR parties are given an induction into your company's policies and procedures.

4. Review and monitor the performance of CoR parties regularly

Many factors can affect performance in compliance, such as changes in the law, changes in policies, or even changes in manufacturing. The performance of everyone in the responsibility chain should be monitored and reviewed regularly to make sure they are complying with the HVNL. You can do this by:

  • Having regular audits from external sources such as consultants or government agencies
  • Conducting internal audits within each department level of the company
  • Utilising data from compliance monitoring tools to review performance
  • Identifying any trends or issues through the analysis of performance records.

5. Use fleet management technologies and solutions

Keeping your vehicles safe and compliant with Chain of Responsibility regulations is essential to protecting your drivers, your cargo, and your bottom line. There are many tools, systems, and processes you can put in place to help you achieve fleet safety and compliance. You can:

  • Invest in GPS tracking that allows you to monitor your fleet in real-time, so you can quickly identify and respond to any safety or compliance issues
  • Use GPS tracking data to improve your routes and schedules
  • Provide vehicle maintenance and driver training programs in place.

Make Compliance with Chain of Responsibility Easy Using SafetyDocs

If you have transport activities, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your workplace complies with your legal obligations. But CoR is more than just avoiding fines. It all comes down to keeping everyone on the road safe. With the proper safety management system in place, you can ensure your workplace is compliant and your workers are safe.

SafetyDocs by SafetyCulture can help you meet your obligations under CoR with our range of safety documents for road safety and heavy vehicles. You can start in your compliance with CoR laws by having the following documentation:

Contact us to find out how SafetyDocs can help your business comply with Chain of responsibility legislation.


Available for instant download and supplied in fully editable MS Word format for use in your business.

Please note that the above information is provided as a comment only and should not be relied on as professional, legal or financial advice.

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