The new reforms in HVNL and CoR laws are a significant step forward in recognising that everyone in the supply chain has a role to play in ensuring heavy vehicle safety. So what do your clients need to know to stay on the right side of the law?

In the 12-month lead up to March 2018, 184 people lost their lives in road accidents involving heavy vehicles, according to a quarterly report shared by the Australian Government. When broken down, 101 of those deaths arose from 88 crashes involving articulated trucks, 91 were from 82 crashes involving heavy rigid trucks, and eight were the result of seven crashes involving both a heavy rigid truck and an articulated truck.

Shine a light on deaths caused by heavy vehicle accidents in New South Wales specifically and the stats are even bleaker, having increased by more than 86 per cent in 12 months. Something’s got to give.

Changes afoot
Australia’s road laws generally address the actions of drivers and operators – but dig a little deeper and you’ll find other parties in the transport supply chain frequently cause breaches of these laws.

While the current Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and related Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws deem all parties with control or influence over a transport task responsible for complying with and for breaches of these laws, changes set to kick-in in July this year will make it their “duty” to ensure safe practices are met daily. It’s a prime opportunity for insurance brokers in the field to spark new conversations with their clients and offer practical advice around safety and mitigation strategies.

The NHVR doesn’t have to wait for a serious accident to trigger an investigation – they are at liberty to launch a prosecution against any supply chain business, any time.

The change means everyone in the supply chain, from packers, loaders and schedulers, to drivers, managers and executives, has a primary duty to eliminate or reduce risk – including those associated with driver fatigue, vehicle maintenance, overloading and speeding.

“If you have control or influence over road safety, you cannot delegate it but rather work to actively reduce it,” says Noel Smith, NTI National Manager – Product Development and Fulfilment. Then, you’ve got to prove you’ve taken the appropriate preventative steps, as new CoR obligations call for operators to be able to actively demonstrate how they effectively manage, identify, eliminate or reduce such risks by using safety management systems, controls and training.

“This means that when it comes to responding to risk and safety, the message to transport operators is if you could have done something, you should have done something,” adds Smith.

The new laws, which also strive to give businesses more flexibility to install preventative measures tailored specifically to their operations, have been closely compared to Australia’s current Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) laws. “It’s because the OH&S laws take a wider view of responsibility for ensuring compliance with workplace health and safety obligations,” says Nick Dendrinos, Head of Motor, Zurich Australia and New Zealand. “Which is similar to how CoR laws will widen responsibility for compliance and transport law. So businesses will need to take a broad view of who could potentially have input into complying with transport law.

“Even if you don’t own or drive a truck, if you’re involved in scheduling it, loading it, or receiving it, these laws could apply to you.”

The long arm of the law

Breaches of the new CoR laws also carry similar penalties to those under OH&S laws, set at a maximum $3 million fine for a corporation and $300,000 or five years’ imprisonment, or both, for an individual.

Penalties will be based on the severity of risk posed by an offence. What’s more, a business can be investigated at any time. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) doesn’t have to wait for a serious accident to trigger an investigation – they are at liberty to launch a prosecution against any supply chain business, any time. So your clients need to be ready.

“This is a valuable opportunity for brokers to actively engage in discussions with their clients around the importance of proactive risk management and encourage a safety culture in supply chain businesses,” says Smith.

“The CoR now requires active use of safety management systems to reduce risk on the road, so brokers should also be working to develop their understanding of who’s in the supply chain and increase their awareness around practical tools and tips to manage and reduce risk – whether that’s safety policies and tools, or advanced telematics with real-time reporting.

“Encouraging clients to document a simple risk register that assesses their key risks and lists what actions or controls they use or should use to manage is a great start.”

NTI is also in the process of developing their own risk and resilience tools, including an online CoR Health Check with the aim of building stronger businesses backed by safer drivers and vehicles. The tool will produce indicative scoring across the key CoR areas of risk, highlighting key gaps to manage while providing access to simple, self-managed risk tools and tips to help businesses understand what options are available to them.

Zurich’s Dendrinos, too, says that being open to new technologies will help businesses stay on the right side of the law. “We’ve seen an increase in the adoption of new technologies to manage fatigue, for example,” he says. “Machines that monitor facial expressions and eye movement to alert drivers when they need a rest. Elsewhere, some operators are beginning to consider lowering the speed limit on their fleets to 90km/h and implementing telematics systems to monitor harsh braking, accelerating and cornering.

In regards to load management, things that good operators are already doing like inspecting restraints and weighing all loads before trips should one day become the industry norm.”

When it comes to responding to risk and safety, the message to transport operators is if you could have done something, you should have done something.

Seizing safety 

The changes to the CoR laws offer up a real opportunity for businesses and brokers alike to raise awareness of the simple tools and tips the heavy vehicle industry can adopt in order to keep not only their drivers, but every single person involved in the supply chain, safe. Safe loading or driver assessment checklists, industry resources such as the Load Restraint Guide or information outlined on the NHVR website, have been put in place to ensure a smooth and simple transition towards compliance.

And, while it’s difficult to  predict with absolute accuracy how these laws will play out once in place, they’re a positive step towards enhancing safety and accountability across the entire sector.

For a more in-depth guide to the new reforms in the HVNL and CoR laws, visit NHVR.