Opinion, Robert Bell

Regulator expansion – Highway Advocates

As the NHVR moves north, will enforcement now tackle those further up the corporate ladder?
Highway Advocates

In breaking news, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is transitioning to enforcement operations in Queensland in the first half of 2024. Hold on to your hats Queenslanders, things are about to get real.

The Regulator has been established in Newstead, Queensland since the commencement of The Law, so we suppose it is all about time they persuaded the home jurisdiction of the Law to take on their brand.

Those of you travelling through other participating jurisdictions will have had various experiences in some way or another of that particular brand of enforcement. Combine that with the various Police Forces and Services, the transport industry is subject to enforcement of some ferocity.

We also hear that The Regulator has established a new unit that is set to target businesses they believe are not complying with the broad responsibilities required under the various Safety Duty aspects of the law.

We have been hearing about the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ ad nauseam for years now. The word around the traps is that it might start to get enforced in the spirit which was created.

Many of you who will have heard about a high-profile transport company manager being jailed for five years with a non-parole period of 12 months. We understand this decision as being appealed so we will leave it at that, however, the decision stands at this point in time.

Various prosecuting authorities also rely upon some recent decisions that add some considerable judicial authority to their enforcement policies.

The NSW Supreme Court decision of Transport for New South Wales v De Paoli Transport Pty Ltd [2022] NSWSC 1678 in December 2022 has now become the ‘go to’ for The Regulator and other enforcement authorities.

This was a decision where Transport for New South Wales appealed against the leniency of sentences imposed by a magistrate, in respect of the Company, a director and an employee for a breach of section 26 of the HVNL.

In his decision, His Honour stated at [76-77]: “It is an agreed fact that those failures exposed the drivers of the heavy vehicles and the public to a risk of death or serious injury as a result of drivers losing control of their heavy vehicles … The failures were not minor or merely in relation to documentation.

“[77] Integral to the responsibility of an operator of a heavy vehicle is the obligation to take steps to ensure that its drivers are properly trained in managing driver fatigue. This does not merely involve training drivers how to fill out their logbooks but ensuring that drivers understand how to manage fatigue.

“Again, this necessarily must involve having adequate systems in place to ensure that drivers were both not speeding and were properly managing fatigue issues. Again, any such systems must ensure that drivers were not driving in breach of their work/rest hours”.

What this means in practical reality is that companies will now come increasingly into focus if their drivers breach provisions of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

At present, many transport companies have to wait for weeks before they see the yellow copies of the driver’s work diary pages. Much can happen in those ensuing weeks, and prosecuting authorities now believe this is simply not good enough.

God forbid that a driver had an accident or incident, as this will most probably initiate an investigation whereby the authorities will have statutory power to turn everything ‘upside down’.

For most small to medium transport companies, there is a relatively simple solution that will allow transport company managers and owners to sleep comfortably, in their own beds, secure in the knowledge that their drivers are operating compliantly.

Guesswork removed

The solution … throw those paperwork diaries away. This does not mean throwing them out the window before you approach a weighbridge of course.

It is no secret Highway Advocates have partnered with Logmaster since our inception almost three years ago. We have stuck with them because, apart from the exceptional products, their customer service is second to none. If you or one of your drivers has a problem, they are only a phone call away.

A Regulator-approved Electronic Work Diary (EWD) takes the guesswork out of for drivers while giving them back the work and rest hours that traditional work diaries steal from them.

Many of you will not realise that using an EWD also gives you an extra eight minutes of work time for every period of work. Add all that up, it gives you a working day that a traditional work diary cannot.

Logmaster also provides a Fatigue Compliance Module, which gives transport company owners and managers the ability to reduce their administrative burden while at the same time monitoring their drivers work and rest hours in real time.

Logmaster’s new Mass Compliance Module fulfils a similar function, preventing operators from being exposed to massive penalties, five times higher than those applied against individual drivers for the same offence.

With just about every offence under the HVNL offering the opportunity to apply for an Enforceable Undertaking (EU), Highway Advocates, as an incorporated legal practice, is constantly evolving.

Apart from our primary focus on court advocacy, we are now branching out to provide solutions for drivers and operators to ensure that they never have to set foot inside a courtroom.

Remember, the primary principles of the HVNL are to ensure public safety. Some of the other primary principles are to ensure The Law promotes industry productivity and efficiency in the road transport of goods and passengers by heavy vehicles; and encourages and promotes productive, efficient, innovative and safe business practices.

Highway Advocates, Lawyers to The Transport Industry, are helping to keep you on the road where you belong. With our partners, we are now helping you stay in business, to do what you do best compliantly.

Call us on 1300 ADV0C8 (1300 238 028) or 0488 01 01 01.

Remember, we are always busy or in court and may not be able to answer your call, so if you have a court notice or other legal issue, email us at info@highwayadvocates.com.au

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