Steady gains being made on chain of responsibility: NTC

By: Steve Skinner

National Transport Commission chief says the chain of responsibility is working – slowly – to improve trucking.

Steady gains being made on chain of responsibility: NTC
NTC boss Paul Retter says truck drivers need to stand up for themselves and refuse work if they believe it will breach transport laws.


The head of the National Transport Commission (NTC) says he is optimistic about chain of responsibility.

NTC CEO and commissioner Paul Retter believes the regime, which is designed to hold all parties in the transport supply chain accountable and is enshrined in the new Heavy Vehicle National Law, is getting results.

"We know that it works," Retter says.

"All the analysis that we have done says that we’re in a better place now than we were prior to 1997 when we had chain of responsibility introduced into the model (state) laws."

However, Retter adds that more work can be done to raise awareness of chain of responsibility beyond the transport sector. 

"Have we got more to do? Absolutely," he concedes.

"We haven't got the awareness in some parts of the non transport logistics chains that we need to and we need to work harder at that."

The NTC has been busy producing several papers and reviews on chain of responsibility in the past couple of years. But as Retter points out, the NTC is a policy body only.

However, he has personal experience as a regulator, with the Office of Transport Security in the aviation and maritime sectors.

"Where people are seeking to do the right thing, often when you explain what the problem is, in my experience most companies will actually do the right thing," Retter says.

"You don’t have to put people in the position where you are hitting them over the head with million-dollar fines or whatever it might be.

"That’s an unfortunate aspect that sometimes does occur because people do break the law and don’t demonstrate a desire to either fix their culture or management style or whatever it might be.

"But where a company or an organisation says, ‘We’re keen to do the right thing, help us work through to this to get it right’, my experience is a smart regulator is actually helping that company achieve the outcome.

"We don’t need necessarily as I call it the ‘crucifixion on the hill’ to demonstrate to somebody that we’re serious, though there’s no doubt the odd conviction does send a message."

Retter says where the transport industry finds a problem, it should bring that to the attention of those who can do something about it. 

"If people just sit back and accept it on the basis that should they raise it they might find themselves commercially disadvantaged, well then things are not going to get any better and we’re not going to improve the safety outcomes that will accrue to getting companies to comply," he says. 

"And as I say, 90 per cent of companies that I’ve seen in my time as a regulator – albeit in a different sector – when you bring something to their attention, management responds positively.

"Many companies will respond and respond far more positively than people think because it's in the long term interests of that company to get it right. No company wants to be subject to enforcement action, whether they’re a transport company or someone else in the supply chain. It's not good for business, not good for their reputation, and not good for their long-term profitability." 

Retter urges drivers to stand up for themselves, and says he’s been told by drivers of instances where this has worked. 

"Sometimes you have to have the courage of your convictions to stand up and say ‘the law is on my side and I'm not going to do that’," he says. 

"If more people in the transport industry were prepared to do that then perhaps we’d have less issues with fatigued drivers or speeding on our roads, which are the two biggest killers of heavy vehicle drivers and the causes of incidents on our roads today." 

You can read the full story on chain of responsibility in the February edition of Owner//Driver. Get your copy now.

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