Countdown to Chain of Responsibility changes

With one month to go until the new Chain of Responsibility changes kick in, Waste Management Review speaks to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator about what it means for the waste sector.

One of the main limitations of Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is that a specific breach has to occur before any parties in the supply chain can be held accountable.

Recyclers and materials recovery facilities work directly with collection companies, who liaise with councils to ensure waste is collected on time and reprocessed. Within the HVNL are the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws.

But what happens when one of the parties in the supply chain isn’t fulfilling their safety obligations?  

When tragedy strikes, for example, a road incident with casualties, it is up to the regulators to conduct an investigation and determine who is at fault. 

Changes to the existing CoR laws are being introduced to ensure they align more closely with workplace health and safety laws. The main change is that everyone in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities and can be held liable for this.

According to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), Australia’s independent regulator for all vehicles over 4.5 tonnes’ gross vehicle mass, the aim of the new CoR laws is to ensure everyone in the supply chain shares responsibility for ensuring HVNL breaches do not occur. Under the CoR, if you are named as a party in the chain of responsibility, and you exercise or are capable of exercising control or influence over any transport task, you have a responsibility to ensure you comply with the law. 

This includes if you are the employer of a driver, prime contractor for a vehicle if the driver is self-employed, operator or scheduler of the vehicle, loading manager for goods in the vehicle, loader/unloader of the vehicle, consignee of goods for transport or goods in the vehicle and a loader/unloader of any goods in the vehicle. 

For waste transporters, this is any instructions, actions or demands to parties in the supply chain that cause or contribute to an unsafe practice.

John Gilbert, Manager Stakeholder Relations of the NHVR, tells Waste Management Review the changes are all about an ability to control or influence the freight task.

He says this regulation can prompt companies to look internally and do all they can to support safety. 

“If you are a party in the chain of responsibility and you have influence and control over the activity then you have a safety obligation,” John says. 

He says it now means greater accountability up the supply chain.

“It’s going to be evermore important that CEOs and board members whose businesses conduct transport activities take notice of what’s happening within their business, and understand the risks and measurements the organisation has in place to manage those risks.

“Even though you have a manager in charge of this, the question will now be: ‘Did the CEO give him the correct training and tools to manage those risks?’” 

This could include regular audits of work schedules and work records, business activities, processes, policies and written instructions. It could also focus on planning for driver rest breaks, ensuring accurate weights of containers, positioning and securing loads and establishing a risk management plan. In terms of training, the CoR covers staff awareness of loading and unloading and making sure staff are actively engaged in practices and not just aware of their obligations. 

As a driver, this involves conduct which doesn’t compromise road safety or break the law, knowing your vehicle’s mass by keeping weighbridge dockets, on-board scales to check your weights, checking your load to ensure it’s properly restrained and inspecting the condition of restraining equipment for signs of wear. 

The changes could also apply to schedulers whose business practices place unrealistic timeframes on drivers that causes them to exceed their work rest options or loading/unloading times that lead the driver to exceed the speed limit.

“This could be things such as if the scheduler says to the driver there is a load happening at eight in the morning and the scheduler says he can’t do it till 1pm and the driver has a 2am timeslot in another capital city. The onus would be on the scheduler to change the timeslot,” John says.

The NHVR employs a number of investigators and safety and compliance officers that will be able to step in and enforce safety breaches, on and off road, before they lead to accidents. For example, if one facility reports a breach of CoR to the NHVR, they would then be able to visit that facility and enquire about any relevant evidence such as fatigue records. 

It also has access to investigative services from jurisdictional on-road agencies, including Roads and Maritime Services in NSW or Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads. “We can use their investigative and on-road services to try and address bad behaviour,” John says.

“We’re in a unique situation where we can get access to a whole range of people, including our own, to help us achieve that safety outcome.

“We could also work collaboratively with the state-based EPAs to address issues and we have done joint initiatives with the EPA in South Australia. We can also call on Work Health Safety and work collaboratively with other agencies like Comcare or AMPSA, in addition to a number of other rail associations.” 

While many investigations will depend on individual reporting, John says that people should be aware that not every accident or incident will be CoR related. He notes that the finite resources of the NHVR mean that it will only investigate matters of high risk. 

“People need to be aware that come October 1, there is not going to be 100 investigations of CoR incidents,” he says.  

“It’s not just one employee calling up to report an incident. Certainly that may be used as a bit of evidence towards a bigger picture, but on that one snippet of information we would not be reacting, unless of course it’s a major safety compliance concern.

“If the evidence is enough for us to prosecute, we will take action.” 

At the same time, the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme will continue to audit facilities to ensure they are complying with general duty requirements under road transport law.

To mitigate risks in the supply chain, NHVR stakeholders such as the Australian Trucking Association and Australian Logistics Council are developing a Master Industry Code of Practice, which went out for public consultation and feedback and is currently undergoing NHVR approval. 

The master codes are planned to set industry standards to support supply chain parties in their CoR obligations and be used in court to highlight known risks and control methods. The process will be assessed by an NHVR-appointed panel and translate the HVNL into a framework on known risk types, assessment information and controls for those with CoR obligations to implement in their operations. It will also address speed, fatigue, mass, dimension and loading and vehicle standards and maintenance.

While there is no set date on when the master code will be approved, the NHVR is ready to go live with the CoR on 1 October. Its representatives have also conducted numerous free education sessions and are visiting at-risk sites in the lead up.  

Phil Carthew, Managing Director of manufacturer and supplier E-Max Australia, says compliance with CoR laws is supported by legal for trade instruments and government sanctioned programs such as Transport Certification Australia’s Intelligent Access Program, which allows improved access to the road network in return for compliance with agreed conditions.

He says this shift is now understanding what weighing equipment aids loading and axle group compliance, as opposed to weighing the content of a bin on a rear, side or front load vehicle. 

Phil says that beyond the allowable gross vehicle mass, the mass of axle groups is also an important consideration, as each has its own limits, including trailer, steer and drive axle groups. 

“Overloaded vehicles in a particular axle group perform poorly for braking and also general driving on the road,” Phil says.

“You can be underweight on your vehicle, but be illegal because you’re overweight on a particular axle group.”

Phil notes that poorly loaded trucks can end up in a fatality. He says one of the key elements of the CoR is not just whether the vehicle is the correct weight, but also running at optimum performance to ensure safety.

BOTEK has worked in partnership with E-Max for the past five years, supplying them with a legal for trade approved weighing system from the National Measurement Institute (NMI), which is responsible for approving weight-based billing technologies. 

The company provides NMI-approved weighing systems for all side and rear lift trucks, with accurate weights helping to detect overloaded bins or provide local government and private sector operators with waste stream data by individual bin important data. 

BOTEK’s radio-frequency identification devices (RFIDs) are also able to capture a significant amount of real-time data and help to ensure there is accurate bin-to-customer identification. “At the operator level, rear load bins on a waste truck have a safe working load. Often that is actually transgressed by the customer, so with the use of RFID on a legal for trade weighing system you are able to identify customers readily that are placing too much mass into a bin, creating an unsafe working environment for the driver,” Phil says.

In addition to its BOTEK weighing systems, E-Max has received interim approval from TCA for its Air-Weigh on-board axle weighing systems for TCA’s Intelligent Access Program, with approval expected in the coming months. 

“We have had a good look at the CoR and it is going to be a really interesting program because it not only covers scales, but correct maintenance, driver training, reporting of incidents and corrective action of those incidents if a truck is overloaded.” 

Mark Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA), says the VWMA’s strategic relationship and the alignment with the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) enables the association to have a close ear to the ground on any transport and road related issues that others might not always be aware of.  

“We are putting on a series of CoR and Safety Management Systems workshops and information sessions which we run with the support of the VTA that our members and others in Victoria can access.”

This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of Waste Management Review.