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Reforms to Australia’s chain of responsibility laws have received in-principle support from Australia’s transport ministers.

Proposed Chain of Responsibility Reforms Get In-Principle Support

19 June 2015

Reforms to Australia’s chain of responsibility laws have received in-principle support from Australia’s transport ministers.

These include the development of primary duties focused on safety in the Heavy Vehicle National Law. This will include a primary duty on operators, prime contractors and employers to ensure the safety of their operations, as well as establishing detailed role-specific duties, as appropriate, for other parties in the chain.

CEO of the National Transport Commission (NTC) Paul Retter said primary duties for safety will ensure better alignment with Australia’s workplace health and safety laws. They will provide a more outcomes-based approach to safety, allowing operators to work out what is the best approach for their company. This will also provide an opportunity to consolidate or remove more prescriptive obligations in the law.

These duties will be limited to the existing regulatory framework of the law and to the existing chain of responsibility parties. The aim is not to extend the scope of duties but to restructure and consolidate existing provisions and ensure they take a performance-based approach. The NTC will shortly call for submissions in response to a discussion paper which will canvass options for how these duties are structured, what standard of care should apply and how they apply to executive officers of corporations.

In addition to this work the NTC and NHVR have been working on the Heavy Vehicle Roadworthiness program for 18 months. As part of that process the NTC received 29 submissions from Australia’s transport industry and other stakeholders on the changes proposed in the consultation regulatory impact statement released in January.  The final recommendations from the roadworthiness review, including the proposed extension of chain of responsibility obligations for employers, operators and prime contractors of heavy vehicle fleets, will be considered by ministers in the second half of 2015.

“Australia’s existing chain of responsibility laws have helped to prevent crashes on our roads,” Mr Retter said.

“These laws need to be improved to help ensure more people complete their journeys safely and our challenge is to make sure they deliver the best safety outcomes possible.

“This in-principle support of changes to chain of responsibility duties now allows us to develop recommendations over the next few months that will make sure the appropriate people in the supply chain have every incentive to do what they can to keep Australia’s roads safe.”

Ministers agreed that there was a need for reform and that a primary duties approach offered the best way forward, consistent with other safety laws. The reform will also examine the current executive officer liability provisions in the law including the type of liability that should apply to executive officers. A copy of the report is available here.

The NTC has been asked to provide detailed recommendations to ministers at their meeting in November this year and the NTC will release a discussion paper by early July to facilitate feedback from our stakeholders.  The NTC will use this feedback when drafting recommendations for chain of responsibility reform. Subject to agreement to these recommendations, draft legislation will be developed for ministers to consider in May 2016.

Last Updated: 18/11/2016