VicRoads cuts chain of responsibility staffing

By: Steve Skinner, Photography by: Steve Skinner

Chain of responsibility investigation team loses its leader, and only three investigators are left.


VicRoads, one of Australia’s main trucking regulators, has been left with a skeleton chain of responsibility (COR) team after a restructure.

As part of the workplace changes, the COR unit has lost its long-term boss, its long term prosecutions manager and several other key staff.

The new investigations chief manages other heavy vehicle units as well, including the prosecutions group. And there are just two full-time investigators on deck, as well as a uniformed VicRoads officer on secondment.

Owner//Driver recently interviewed outgoing investigations chief Scott Douglas during his last week on the job.

"It’s been a great deal of work and a good effort by people who want to get the job done," Douglas says of his former team.

The downsizing means that, as of last month, the unit had only one COR investigation under way, relating to fatigue.

Four years ago, the investigations unit was kicking major goals on COR.

In fairly rapid succession the unit had notched up three successful prosecutions on fatigue alone. All involved trucking companies rather than customers. The highest profile cases were Ag-Spread in Albury and Miles Transport in Melbourne.

Over the years the small VicRoads unit has also prosecuted customers DP World for loading overheight containers, which hit bridges; Qube for allowing overweight containers to leave its yard; Happy Valley Enterprises for overloading produce trucks; and a rubbish bin manufacturer for lack of load restraint.

At one stage there were six full-time investigators working across both chain of responsibility on trucking and tow truck investigations. That was still a low level of COR resourcing compared with the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services and Victoria Police.

In the past couple of years a lot of time has also been taken up with prosecuting companies over maintenance issues, which are not part of COR – although VicRoads thinks they should be. The most notable of these was Cootes.

Douglas believes a COR prosecution of a customer for causing fatigue will happen one day, but establishing proof beyond reasonable doubt is very difficult.

"You’re relying on people having to give direct evidence – ‘this is what we had to do and why’ – and there’s a whole variety of reasons why that won’t happen," he says.

"The only people that can give that evidence are staff from the transport company, and they won’t give that evidence because if they do, they will potentially lose the contract with the customer. So it’s a very difficult hurdle to jump.

"When you’re looking at the bottom end of COR, which is simply driver/operator, it’s still difficult to prove but in comparison it’s easy because a lot of it’s on records."

You can read more on the chain of responsibility in Victoria in our special feature in the April issue of Owner//Driver.

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