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30 July 2021
Chain of responsibility

What is Chain of Responsibility, is there a Management Plan and do I need one?

Heavy Vehicle Transport Safety is designed for the safe operation of vehicles above 4.5 tonne gross vehicle mass on Australian roads. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) governs the compliance of safe transportation of goods by these heavy vehicles.


In January 2013, the NHVR officially opened its doors as a statutory authority pursuant to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (NHVL). The aim of the regulator was to achieve the highest standards in transport safety by:

  • Providing leadership and driving sustainable improvement to safety, productivity and efficiency outcomes across the heavy vehicle transport sector and the Australian economy
  • Minimising the compliance burden, while ensuring the objects of the HVNL are achieved and duty holders meet their obligations
  • Reducing duplication of, and inconsistencies in, heavy vehicle regulation across state and territory borders.


The premise of the NHVR was to create a single nationally recognised authority to govern heavy vehicle transport safety. The NHVR acts as the primary regulator for maintaining Chain of Responsibility (CoR) expectations held within the HVNL.


What is CoR?

The aim of Chain of Responsibility is to hold all direct and indirect stakeholders within any supply chain accountable for their involvement. The process between manufacture or extraction of the freight or materials by the supplier; through to the purchase and arrival for consignees have some level of influence to ensure the safe delivery of these goods.

The Chain, in a sense is every person or company involved in getting goods transported and delivered from point A to point B. The law recognises that all parties may be held liable for offenses committed by a heavy vehicle driver whilst performing the freight task.

CoR is made up of 4 Core risks that must be eliminated or minimised by the carrier to maintain road transport safety on Australian roads. These core risks are the foundation of heavy vehicle transport safety and the pillars that may lead to prosecution of offenders.


What are the core risks of CoR?

The core risks or duties according to the Industry Code of Practice, known as the Master Code are the four most prominent hazards related to heavy motor vehicle incidents on Australian roads. The four risks also make up the majority of at-fault accidents. They are regulated under the HVNL, and include:

  • Speed - incidents caused by speeding heavy vehicles and breaches of speed compliance requirements.
  • Fatigue - incidents caused by drivers being impaired by fatigue and breaches of fatigue management requirements.
  • Mass, Dimension and Loading - incidents caused by incorrectly positioned or restrained loads and overloaded or over-dimensional heavy vehicles, and breaches of mass, dimension and loading requirements.
  • Vehicle Standards - incidents caused by poorly maintained, unsafe or defective heavy vehicles and breaches of vehicle standards requirements.

Breaching any aspect of these risks may result in substantial civil or criminal prosecution.

Any corporation who acts recklessly as to risk the safe delivery of the goods may be subject to fines as high as $3,000,000, whilst individuals who act recklessly may be subject to fines as high as $300,000 and a maximum 5 year imprisonment.

Having a strong management plan in your organisation will guarantee solid controls and minimise the likelihood of prosecution should an accident occur.


What is the CoR Management Plan

CoR, like all other areas of safety require a risk management approach to improve the safety of drivers, and members of the public so far as reasonably practicable. The management plan is built of this approach and can be embedded with strong controls for any company.

A risk management process and safety system will provide any company transparency of the risk they have influence over and implement their own controls to minimise their influence on the risk.

Correct documentation, processes and procedures as well as commitment to the identify, assess, and control the risk and regular review of control measures are essential. All owners, managers or executives must have this in place to cover their own duties, the duties of their employees and the expectations within their organisation.


Does my company need a Plan?

Historically, the assumption was that CoR expectations and systems were held and owned by logistics and supply chain companies. These companies had direct influence over the transporting task and were responsible for the safety of the drivers and trucks.

Unfortunately, this assumption does not fall within the parameters of the Master Code, which stipulates the parties within the chain:

  • Employer of a driver – in general terms, a person who employs a driver of a heavy vehicle.
  • Prime Contractor – In general terms, a person responsible for engaging a driver of a heavy vehicle by contract
  • Operator – In general terms, a person responsible for controlling or directing the use of a heavy vehicle
  • Packer - In general terms, a person engaged in the process of packaging goods for a heavy vehicle load.
  • Loading Manager – in general terms, a person who supervises loading or unloading or manages the premises where this occurs.
  • Loader and Unloader – in general terms, a person engaged in the process of loading or unloading a heavy vehicle.
  • Consignor – in general terms the named sender of goods by road transport.
  • Consignee – in general terms the named receiver of goods after their completion of road transport.

Are you a business that has goods that are picked up from; or deliver to your premises?

Are you a company that packages goods to be loaded onto a truck? Does your company load or unload trucks in any way?

Do you engage a company to perform your freight tasks?

If you are and you don’t have any plans or controls in place, you may not be meeting you transport safety obligations. Ignorance is not an excuse, and offenders may be subject to prosecution in the event of an accident.

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