Chain of responsibility takes effect in Western Australia

By: Brad Gardner

All parties in the supply chain can now be held liable for mass, dimension and load restraint breaches


New chain of responsibility provisions have taken effect in Western Australia to hold all parties in the supply chain accountable for mass, dimension and load restraint breaches.

WA authorities can now prosecute a number of parties if an overloaded vehicle or an illegally restrained load is detected on the state’s roads.

Those in positions responsible for loading a vehicle, scheduling deliveries, receiving freight or supplying a vehicle can all be held liable.

The chain of responsibility provisions apply to light and heavy vehicles, exposing the trucking industry and the broader community to prosecution for non-compliance.

"Drivers are still responsible for ensuring that the vehicle they are driving complies with all mass, dimension and loading requirements. However, under the new laws, other parties in the chain can also be held responsible," WA road transport authority Main Roads says.

"In the event of a breach, consignors, drivers, vehicle owners, loaders, packers, management and company directors may be held responsible under the legislation. Liability also extends to corporate bodies, unincorporated associations and partnerships."

Main Roads says it decided to extend chain of responsibility to light vehicles to gain the greatest road safety benefit.

Similar to existing chain of responsibility laws in eastern states, WA requires parties to take "all reasonable steps" to prevent a breach from occurring.

Those charged with committing an offence can defend themselves if they can show they took necessary steps to comply with their obligations.

While not stating what "reasonable steps" involves, Main Roads says businesses need to show they have systems in place to regularly assess, identify and manage risks.

Main Roads says steps could include developing codes of practice, reviewing business practices, changing commercial arrangements, adopting risk management practices, implementing training policies and providing necessary supervision.

"As each business is different it would be difficult to define the steps required to comply, therefore, the defence has been structured to provide flexibility by allowing a business to decide what steps they will take to ensure compliance with the law," the department says.

It adds that drivers and owner-drivers cannot be dismissed or lose their contract for raising concerns about a possible chain of responsibility offence or by aiding authorities during an investigation.

WA passed legislation back in May 2012 to enshrine chain of responsibility in the state’s Road Traffic (Vehicles) Act and was due to implement the new regime in March last year.

The reforms bring WA into line with other jurisdictions, which already have chain of responsibility in place for mass, dimension and load restraint offences.

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