THE LAST MILE – The Aussies are coming

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 4, 2020

There are now signs some Australian companies with connections in New Zealand through their supply chain are looking at those connections to ensure CoR obligations are not compromised by behaviour on this side of the Tasman.

In 2018 Australia‘s Chain of Responsibility (CoR) law was amended to provide that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities. (See https://www.nhvr.gov.au/ safety-accreditation-compliance/chain-of-responsibility) The philosophy underpinning CoR is simple: any party who has influence over supply chain activity is responsible for safety on the road. What does this mean in practice? Essentially, if you operate or drive a truck or cause a truck to be used anywhere in the overall supply chain, you have a responsibility to ensure the driver and truck are always safe. Australian penalties under CoR are high, up to $3 million in some cases. While Australian law cannot be prosecuted in New Zealand, we have had CoR law here since October 2007, (Section 6C of the Land Transport Act). Our law is fundamentally the same as the Australian one with one notable exception: in Australia maintenance management is included. However, some of our Land Transport Rules, such as the Heavy Vehicle Rule, do include an implied responsibility on those who operate vehicles: ‘A person who operates a vehicle must ensure that the vehicle complies with this rule‘. The definition of ‘operate‘ in the Rule is ‘Operate in relation to a vehicle, means to drive or use the vehicle on a road, or to cause or permit the vehicle to be on a road or to be driven on a road, whether or not the person is present with the vehicle‘.

New Zealand Trucking magazine‘s Legal Lines columnist Danielle Beston recently wrote about our CoR law and its connections to other New Zealand laws like Workplace Health and Safety (New Zealand Trucking September and October 2019; Vicarious liability and Health and Safety, parts one and two). If you have not read them I suggest that you do; they may be eye-opening. There are now signs some Australian companies with connections in New Zealand through their supply chain are looking at those connections to ensure CoR obligations are not compromised by behaviour on this side of the Tasman. This writer is aware that some transport operators in New Zealand have been audited to make sure they are compliant with our law in those areas where Australian CoR sits, such as speeding, work time (driver fatigue), and mass management. It is not difficult to imagine that shortly contracts that extend across the Tasman will include CoR compliance clauses. Meeting CoR standards is not hard; all you need to have in place is a fleet management safety system that works, and you can prove that it works. For example, it is no good having a safety system that says your trucks never exceed the speed limit, when they are collecting speeding tickets. There is a role here for the industry to lead if it wants to by designing a universal fleet safety management system that is available to all, customisable for the type of work you do. Its use could then be promoted as an industry-wide initiative. There is no doubt that the winds of change are sweeping through the industry from all sides and it may simply be a matter of change or die. One thing we can be sure about though, looking to the future, there is unlikely to be any place for operators who are entrenched in the past.