Examine exposure in transport safety, councils told

A new tool has been developed to help local governments comply with recent changes to Australia’s heavy vehicle transport safety rules.

Recent changes to Chain of Responsibility laws have placed greater responsibility on councils to improve compliance with heavy vehicle safety regulations.

The rules mean councils in all states, except Western Australia and the Northern Territory, must ensure everything practicable is being done to improve transport safety when sending or receiving goods from a heavy vehicle with a mass of more than 4.5 tonnes.

Chain of Responsibility aims to ensure all parties in a supply chain share responsibility for guarding against breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

Adam Gibson, transport and logistics risk engineer at the National Transport Insurance, a major truck and transport insurer, says measuring compliance with these new laws can often be challenging for councils.

“The Heavy Vehicle National Law includes a specific obligation for executive officers of legal entities, which includes councils, to exercise due diligence in making themselves aware of their entity’s transport activities and to ensure appropriate controls are in place to manage risk,” he told Government News.

“Looking beyond simple legal compliance, it’s very hard to manage something without being able to measure it.”

The changes, which came into effect in October, compel councils to have safety management systems and controls in place, including reporting to senior officers and documenting actions to improve safety.

Mr Gibson says that councils need to have in place ways of measuring their vulnerability to risks associated with heavy vehicles.

“As with council’s management of workplace health and safety, they should start by examining the exposure they face,” he said.

This assessment should be followed by a sound risk management process, involving documenting and assessing hazards, identifying existing and potential controls and continually reviewing their effectiveness, Mr Gibson says.

Resource developed

National Transport Insurance has developed a tool to help businesses, including councils, understand their level of compliance with the new laws.

The tool, which is free online, gives participants a downloadable report and a benchmark of how they compare with others.

The NTI has also flagged plans to next year expand the range of question sets available to enable more customised guidance for particular roles.

Executive leadership

As well as assessing the vulnerability of individual local governments, councils also need to ensure they’re promoting a culture of safety.

“The first thing to do is raise the issue with the executive team in the council. Good safety culture and effective risk management flow from the top down.  The executive team need to understand both the council’s and their personal obligations under the law,” Mr Gibson said.

“The next step is to identify the responsible parties who will directly manage the council’s transport activities and empower them to establish robust, documented processes to ensure that the council’s transport activities are safe and compliant.”

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