12 July 2012 Transport & Logistics - 2012 Mid-Year Round-Up and Outlook

By Tim Hemingway, Partner

In Brief

Our Transport & Logistics Team's round-up highlights developments in transport regulation that affect everyone, including the proposed implementation of uniform 'chain of responsibility' laws nationally and the controversial new 'safe rates' legislation.

We are half way through 2012 and it remains a busy agenda for transport and logistics regulators and enforcers, with developments impacting both providers and users of transport and logistics services.

Recent incidents and investigations: In the last few months, there have been some high profile investigations into, and police blitzes targeting, heavy vehicle transport operators:

  • whose drivers have been suspected of using illicit drugs;
  • whose vehicle speed limiters have been found to have been tampered with; or
  • whose vehicles have been detected speeding or unsafely loaded or who are not complying with driver fatigue management regulations.

How this affects you - your role in the transport 'chain of responsibility': A recent protest by truck drivers in Sydney brings into focus how road transport laws affect not only drivers and operators, but anyone whose supply chain involves the transportation of goods using heavy vehicles.

The point the truck drivers were making was that in order to meet the delivery demands of their customers, they claimed they had no choice but to take risks - breaching speed limits or driving hours restrictions or loading their vehicles in a way that may be unsafe. The truck drivers are highlighting the fact that everyone in the transport chain needs to take responsibility for the drivers' compliance with safety laws.

Current state of play: Hence the development of 'chain of responsibility' laws over the last few years which make all participants in the transport chain liable for relevant breaches of road laws - from consignors, packers and loaders through to consignees, with liability extending to directors and managers of organisations in the chain as well.

Currently, these laws vary from State to State and Territory to Territory, which makes it difficult for organisations with national operation or reach. However, moves are afoot to put in place uniform chain of responsibility laws nationally with respect to heavy vehicles by the beginning of next year. We will keep you posted on progress.

'Safe rates': In addition, the controversial Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012 was assented to in April 2012 and commenced on 1 July 2012.

The Act is intended to promote 'safety and fairness' in the road transport industry by regulating 'remuneration related incentives' and other factors that contribute to unsafe work practices, including by promoting reasonable standards along the road transport industry supply chain.

The Act establishes a new Safety Remuneration Tribunal which is empowered to make 'safety remuneration orders' (of its own volition in accordance with its own annual work program, and on application by interested persons), to approve road transport collective agreements, to deal with certain disputes involving road transport and to conduct research into remuneration related matters that may affect safety in the road transport industry.

The Act has been widely criticised, variously for creating an additional layer of regulation and compliance which goes against the tide of streamlining and simplifying transport regulation and because of a lack of empirical evidence of the link between driver remuneration and road safety.

Budget 2012: The fact that freight transport and logistics are front of mind for the federal and NSW governments was clear from recent budget measures. Apart from the proposal to develop a new multi-modal, multi-billion dollar freight terminal at Moorebank in Sydney, allocation was made in the federal budget for the establishment of national regulators for heavy vehicle, rail and maritime safety, whilst the NSW budget provided for increased investment in key freight routes and road infrastructure maintenance.

Looking ahead: All of these recent developments highlight the timeliness of the implementation of national heavy vehicle laws, scheduled to commence in January 2013. There are also parallel developments towards national regulation of rail and maritime safety. The implementation of uniform regulation across the various transport modes also forms part of the broader harmonisation of workplace health and safety laws across Australia.

Our transport & logistics team will keep you informed of key developments as they happen. In the meantime, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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