Date PostedMay 11, 2012

Alert: Chain of Responsibility Laws – Prosecutions

On May 9th the Australian Chain of Responsibility laws just got more teeth!  Police and authorities in NSW made over 1,000 prosecutions against directors and owners of four trucking companies relating to speeding offences committed by their drivers.

The Sydney Morning Herald broke the news:

[content_box_light_blue width=”75%”]Directors charged over speeding truck drivers.


Photo by Wolter Peeters

In an unprecedented blitz, NSW Police and Roads and Maritime Services laid the charges in Parramatta Local Court late yesterday and will try to prove that under ”chain of responsibility” provisions in the law, the owners and directors of trucking firms and the companies that use them to transport goods are all responsible for speeding offences.

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Although the Chain of Responsibility laws have been in place since around 2005, this is one of the first high profile (page 3 of the Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday May 10.) pieces of publicity to directly make mention of chain of responsibility legislation, and how it’s been used for such serious and multitudinous prosecutions.  This is a fairly basic usage of the CoR laws as its fairly obvious that directors and owners are ultimately responsible for the breaches of law committed by their staff or contractors.  But the next part of the article is the most interesting, and with the most far reaching ramifications of all:

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While the prosecutions begun yesterday are all against small and medium sized trucking firms, police and government sources said they were also planning to prosecute a range of companies which have shipped or received goods on trucks that have been speeding.

Using the same chain of responsibility provisions used against the trucking firms, police and officers from Roads and Maritime Services plan to prosecute companies that receive and send freight for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure trucks are not speeding.

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So “companies that send and receive freight” can also be prosecuted for “failing to take reasonable steps to ensure trucks are not speeding”.

How could a separate company, not a transport
company be prosecuted for this?

There would be several reasons.  Firstly, setting unrealistic deadlines.  Companies needing urgent parts, stock, etc. could put pressure on the transport companies, even offering financial or other incentives for the transport company to “push the boundaries” in order to get their goods delivered quicker.  Does this actually go on?  It would seem so, if NSW Police have enough evidence to be “plan(ning) to prosecute companies…”

Recently Mr Steven Asnicar, Director of industry training company “Chain of Responsibility”, subsidiary of Urban E-Learning stated in a Press Release:

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Everyone in the supply chain must take ‘reasonable steps’ to prevent driver fatigue, speeding, and breaches of load management guidelines. Essentially ALL companies in Australia are potentially liable under Chain of Responsibility laws now being targeted in NSW.”

There are three ways a non-transport related company could run the risk of a prosecution (as outlined in the legislation) Individuals and companies must not:

  1. make demands that you know or ought to know would cause a breach;
  2. coerce, induce or encourage breaches; and
  3. pass on false or misleading information that could cause a breach.1

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So non transport companies could make demands, or coerce transport companies to a) break speed limits, b) disregard fatigue management restrictions, or c) overload vehicles.  Anyone in the chain, knowingly involved in such practices, automatically becomes liable, and as seen earlier this week, could be prosecuted!

One of the transport companies accused the authorities of running a publicity stunt.

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Daniel Borg, from Freds, said he would plead not guilty and accused NSW authorities of running a public relations stunt.

”This is the way these guys work, this is a ‘shock and awe’ campaign. You can’t create the sort of fanfare they have created without charging someone,” he said. ”It really is a very unfortunate situation. It does a massive amount of damage to your reputation … If there’s one or two that have been tampered with it’s not been done by an owner or director,” he said.

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What do you think about this response?  He seems to be of the view that as long as it wasn’t personally the owner or director who picked up a screwdriver and spanner and tampered with speed limiter equipment, then its “not his fault”?  No doubt the courts would take a different view about that, based on the old adage:  “You can’t delegate responsibility”.

References:
1. Commonwealth of Australia 2010 TLI10 Transport and Logistics Package (Accredited awareness training package based on Chain of Responsibility law)

 

About

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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Urban E-Learning is not registered with CRICOS, therefore cannot offer training to student visa holders; please click here to see the UEL Student Handbook for further information.

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