Nation­al Trans­port & Logis­tics Reg­u­la­tion Becomes Real­i­ty. Is Your Sup­ply Chain Ready?

In Brief

After years in the mak­ing, the estab­lish­ment in late Jan­u­ary of two new nation­al trans­port reg­u­la­tors rep­re­sents a crit­i­cal shift in land trans­port reg­u­la­tion in Aus­tralia and serves as an impor­tant reminder of the way that trans­port reg­u­la­tion impacts every­one who uses trans­port in their sup­ply chains, not only those who pro­vide trans­port services.

The Nation­al Rail Safe­ty Reg­u­la­tor (NRSR) and the Nation­al Heavy Vehi­cle Reg­u­la­tor (NHVR) both com­menced oper­a­tion in late Jan­u­ary. These two new reg­u­la­tors join the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safe­ty Author­i­ty (AMSA) which is respon­si­ble for domes­tic com­mer­cial ves­sel safety.

What has changed?

Until now, domes­tic trans­port reg­u­la­tion has been admin­is­tered large­ly by State and Ter­ri­to­ry author­i­ties. Dif­fer­ent regimes have applied in the var­i­ous juris­dic­tions and, whilst there were many sim­i­lar­i­ties, numer­ous sub­tle (and some­times not so sub­tle) dif­fer­ences made com­pli­ance for busi­ness­es oper­at­ing in more than one State or Ter­ri­to­ry a challenge.

The estab­lish­ment of new nation­al reg­u­la­tors does not of itself elim­i­nate all of those dis­crep­an­cies, but a lev­el nation­al play­ing field is get­ting clos­er and the new reg­u­la­tors should assist oper­a­tors who can now address many of their needs through one nation­al author­i­ty for each trans­port mode, instead of mul­ti­ple State and Ter­ri­to­ry bodies.

How does this affect me?

Trans­port oper­a­tors: If you are a heavy vehi­cle, rail or com­mer­cial ves­sel oper­a­tor, the new nation­al laws and reg­u­la­tors are intend­ed to make com­pli­ance eas­i­er and sim­pli­fy run­ning your busi­ness and its admin­is­tra­tion. Rail oper­a­tors should enjoy stream­lined one-stop-shop accred­i­ta­tion, a uni­fied approach to safe­ty com­pli­ance and nation­al­ly con­sis­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tion and sig­nalling sys­tems. Heavy vehi­cle oper­a­tors should ben­e­fit from the NHVR’s admin­is­tra­tion of the Nation­al Heavy Vehi­cle Accred­i­ta­tion Scheme and nation­al Per­for­mance Based Stan­dards for heavy vehi­cles, and (once allo­ca­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ties and ser­vice lev­els have been worked out between the NHVR and the States and Ter­ri­to­ries) clear­er trans­port route access prin­ci­ples.

Busi­ness­es that use the ser­vices of trans­port providers in their sup­ply chains: Over time, these sim­pli­fied reg­u­la­tor struc­tures should dri­ve greater ease of com­pli­ance and greater effi­cien­cies for trans­port providers and ulti­mate­ly assist in reduc­ing trans­port and sup­ply chain costs for users of trans­port ser­vices. How­ev­er, the sim­pli­fied reg­u­la­tor struc­tures will not alone deliv­er these results – con­sis­tent­ly applied nation­al trans­port laws are also required.

We now have nation­al reg­u­la­tors, but what about nation­al laws?

We are not quite there yet.

The Nation­al Heavy Vehi­cle Law has been passed in Queens­land, with the rest of the coun­try expect­ed to take up the law by the mid­dle of the year (although West­ern Aus­tralia has yet to con­firm its sup­port, con­sis­tent with its posi­tion of not hav­ing tak­en up the sorts of chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty’ laws that were in place in oth­er juris­dic­tions – see below). And even with a sin­gle NHVR, heavy vehi­cle oper­a­tors will still need to deal with State and Ter­ri­to­ry-based author­i­ties for things like reg­is­tra­tion and dri­ver licensing.

The Nation­al Rail Safe­ty Law has been passed in South Aus­tralia, New South Wales, Tas­ma­nia and the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry, with the rest of the coun­try expect­ed to take up the law dur­ing the course of 2013.

What are the laws and reg­u­la­tions about?

Two words: safe­ty and con­sis­ten­cy. It’s all about cre­at­ing a cul­ture of com­pli­ance across all states, sup­port­ed by sin­gu­lar nation­al reg­u­la­tors that are there to take action against behav­iours and prac­tices that pose safe­ty risks – think oper­a­tor fatigue man­age­ment, safe load­ing, equip­ment stan­dards and accred­i­ta­tion – wher­ev­er they may occur.

Nation­al Heavy Vehi­cle Law

Read­ers will recall that State and Ter­ri­to­ry based heavy vehi­cle chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty’ laws pre­vi­ous­ly dealt with dri­ver fatigue man­age­ment, safe load­ing (mass, dimen­sion and load restraint) and speed­ing, in dif­fer­ent ways and to vary­ing degrees depend­ing on the juris­dic­tion. The Nation­al Heavy Vehi­cle Law enshrines these chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty’ laws, on a uni­form nation­al basis. Sever­i­ty of breach is assessed accord­ing to mag­ni­tude of risk and, impor­tant­ly, every­one in the trans­port chain is poten­tial­ly liable – from con­signee, pack­er and loader through to con­sign­or, with lia­bil­i­ty extend­ing to employ­ers and to direc­tors and man­agers of organ­i­sa­tions in breach. Seri­ous penal­ties and a range of cor­rec­tive and oth­er orders apply. The key defence is to be able to show that rea­son­able steps’ were tak­en to pre­vent the rel­e­vant breach.

Rail Safe­ty Nation­al Law

Chain of respon­si­bil­i­ty prin­ci­ples are like­wise enshrined in the new nation­al rail safe­ty law, such that every­one in the rail trans­port chain has rail safe­ty duties’. The new law’s accred­i­ta­tion and reg­is­tra­tion require­ments cre­ate a nation­al­ly con­sis­tent set of stan­dards for equip­ment and infra­struc­ture oper­a­tors and the law man­dates a num­ber of basic safe­ty process­es that must be in place to man­age risks. Seri­ous penal­ties and a range of cor­rec­tive and oth­er orders apply.

What should I do now?

If trans­port is part of your sup­ply chain, now is the time to review your oper­a­tions and process­es and how they are doc­u­ment­ed (includ­ing your con­trac­tu­al arrange­ments with trans­port providers) to ensure you are min­imis­ing your risk of lia­bil­i­ty. We are here to help.