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The current Chain of Responsibility laws mean everyone needs to be proactive about heavy vehicle safety. The authorities can take action against parties in the chain, even before a safety incident occurs.

If you are involved in the transport industry, it is important to be aware of your obligations and take preventative measures to ensure you are compliant.

If you have been charged with a Chain of Responsibility offence call us today. We are uniquely placed to help you. Heavy Vehicle law is a niche area, with few lawyers focussing on it as their main area of expertise. But we do!

With over a decade working in the field, and an ex-RMS prosecutor on the team, we not only know the law back to front, we know the industry. We can help tailor a defence that saves you from large fines.

What is the Chain of Responsibility?

The Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws require everyone in the industry to do their part to keep heavy vehicle operations safe.

They do this by imposing legal obligations known as ‘safety duties’ on a wide range of people involved in the industry.

What are the Chain of Responsibility Duties?

There are 3 safety duties:

  • Primary duty – everyone in the chain of responsibility needs to ensure their transport activities are safe, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Executive duty – executives must exercise due diligence to ensure their entity complies with safety duties set out in the law. (e.g. directors of companies must ensure their corporation is compliant).
  • Prohibited requests and contracts – you must not make requests or enter contracts with drivers or CoR parties that could cause drivers to:
    • Exceed a speed limit
    • Drive while impaired by fatigue
    • Breach their work and rest hours
    • Breach another law in order to avoid driving while fatigued or in breach of their work and rest hours

The full obligations under the law are very detailed. It is a good idea to speak with one of our Chain of Responsibility lawyers for more advice about the obligations and how they apply to you.

Who is in the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle?

The following people are parties to the Chain of Responsibility for a heavy vehicle:

  • The driver’s employer or prime contractor
  • Operator of the vehicle
  • Scheduler for the vehicle
  • Consignor or consignee of any goods on the vehicle
  • Packer of any goods in the vehicle
  • Loader, unloader or loading manager for any goods in the vehicle

In deciding whether you fall into one of these categories the law looks at the actual duties you perform, rather than your job title or what your contract says.

What if I’m not guilty?

You can plead “not guilty” and defend a charge of breaching CoR requirements.

The prosecution will need to show that you fell short of your legal obligations. But there are limits on those obligations.

Generally you only need to take reasonable steps (the exact wording used varies between the obligations). What is reasonable varies in every case.

If you believe that you have done everything you can to meet your obligations, call us to discuss how to defend your case.

What are the penalties for a breach?

The maximum penalty varies depending on which safety duty has been breached and the risk posed by the breach.

In the most serious cases the fines can be as high as $3 million.

One of our lawyers will be happy to calculate your possible penalties if you have been charged with a CoR offence and talk with you about how we can help to minimise them. Call us today.

Can I be charged for breaching CoR laws even if there hasn’t been an accident?

Yes, you can be charged for breaching CoR laws even if there hasn’t been an accident or other breach of the HVNL.

Under the old laws parties in the Chain of Responsibility were only charged if their vehicle was involved in a breach of the Heavy Vehicle National Law. e.g. if a vehicle was detected overloaded, then all parties in the chain could be charged.

The current CoR laws work differently. They apply a positive duty to avoid risk. You can be charged if the authorities believe you aren’t doing enough to avoid risks. The authorities don’t need to wait for a breach of the mass, dimension or fatigue laws.

Can I change the court location?

Yes, it is possible to change the court location when you are pleading guilty.

Your case will start in the Local Court closest to where the offence happened. Often this is a long way from your home. If you plead guilty the magistrate will often agree to move the case to a closer court.

What if I don't want to go to court?

If you are pleading guilty you can submit a ‘written notice of pleading’.

If you do this the magistrate will decide the penalty in your absence. This can save you the time and money of attending court.

However, given the seriousness of CoR charges and large penalties, it is generally a bad idea to do this. Submitting a written plea usually results in a worse outcome than if you’d attended because you are not there to plead your case, answer questions and show that you are taking the matter seriously.

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