Commercial realities mug COR reporting on customers

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner


Transport lawyer says chain of responsibility law struggles against issues the trucking industry confronts

Commercial realities mug COR reporting on customers
Trucking operators are likely to take the flak for a chain of responsibility offence a customer commits, Gillian Bristow says.

 

Trucking operators are unlikely to blow the whistle on their customers for breaching chain of responsibility (COR) because it is not in their financial interest to do so, according to a leading transport lawyer.

Gillian Bristow from law firm Cooper Grace Ward says COR does not always reflect the commercial realities of the transport industry.

While the likes of Victoria Police and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) want truck drivers and operators to inform them about COR breaches, Bristow believes they are more likely to take the heat for an offence.

"You, as an operator, are not necessarily going to want to, in inverted commas, dob in your customer," she says.

"If they are the really big customer and something goes wrong and you’re the one in the firing line, it’s not necessarily in your commercial interests to go and point out the fact that in fact the reason this has occurred is because your biggest client created the problem.

"So, in a sense, a lot of the time the operator is absorbing some of the flak that comes out of particular instances because of commercial reasons. And I don’t think the legislation reflects that and I’m not even sure that it can."

Bristow made the comments during her keynote address at this year’s NatRoad conference, which also touched on other areas of COR including proposed reforms and what trucking operators should do when accused of committing breaches.

Police and government authorities are trying to encourage the trucking industry to provide evidence of customer breaches of COR and be willing to testify.

Earlier this year, NHVR COR manager Michael Crellin appealed to the industry to speak up about what was happening.

"One of the great challenges that we have for chain of responsibility is to reach beyond the transport company themselves. What we actually need is people ready and prepared to stand up and say, ‘hang on, this is exactly what is happening’. But not on an anecdotal level. We actually need people to come in and be the witnesses," Crellin says.

"So that’s my appeal to you.

"If you want us to get involved and get very, very active in terms of putting other people in the supply chain before court, we actually need your help to do that…We are very, very prepared to do that, very prepared."

Likewise, Victoria Police detective inspector Bernie Rankin  — who leads the force’s heavy vehicle unit — says authorities need solid evidence to mount a prosecution.

"It’s all very well to anecdotally report something but we need a lot better than that … and if drivers in the industry and companies in the industry know of distribution centres, of customers putting a regime on drivers that is not sustainable, then they need to tell us. But of course there is a reluctance within industry to do that," he says.

NEXT: What to do if you are charged with committing a COR offence.

 

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