Large fine for Fatigue Breaches under Heavy Vehicle National Law

02 September 2020

During these difficult times, it is important that all members of the supply chain remember their obligations under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and, in particular, their primary duty under the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) provisions. The potential financial and legal ramifications of failing to comply with those obligations can be significant as seen in a recent case in Queensland.

A Queensland trucking company has been fined $60,000 for breaches of the CoR primary duty provisions in relation to safety and fatigue management. Two of the company’s drivers were also fined $14,000 and $6,000 respectively. The Queensland Department of Transport (QDT) began investigations of the company after receiving a tip through the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) Heavy Vehicle Confidential Reporting Line.

The QDT found that the company had failed to take steps to ensure safety in its activities including failing to:

  • schedule journeys to ensure they could comply with the fatigue provisions of the HVNL; and
  • monitor GPS data from its trucks to ensure its drivers were complying with those obligations.

The drivers of the trucks were found to have breached the fatigue provisions by exceeding their permitted hours 22 times and 14 times respectively.

This case represents a situation where the drivers failed to comply with their obligations in relation to hours driven and the trucking company failed to provide sufficient supervision and monitoring of those hours.

The fatigue provisions of the HVNL are in place to ensure that drivers are not placed under added pressures to meet deadlines by compromising their own and others safety due to fatigue while driving. While members of the supply chain may perceive added pressures to meet deadlines, particularly given delivery delays being experienced due to COVID-19, the risk of accident and injury and so the potential for prosecution is significant. The fatigue provisions and the obligations they place on members of the supply chain are clear and should be complied with at all times.

In relation to his case, the NHVR has stated that this represented a serious breach of the HVNL provisions and that it was the first prosecution in Queensland since the CoR provisions were amended in 2018. In a statement in relation to the fines, Mr Ray Hassall of the NHVR stated:

“Heavy vehicle safety is everyone’s responsibility. Whether you’re a depot manager, a driver, working in distribution centres, scheduling or a managing director, you have an obligation to do your best to keep our roads safe.”

Mr Hassall also emphasised that anyone involved in the supply chain who witnesses or is asked to undertake activities which are unsafe is able to make a confidential call to the Heavy Vehicle Confidential Reporting Line.

This case provides a timely reminder for all members of the supply chain to ensure that their policies and procedures are up to date and their staff are trained and fully aware of their obligations under the HVNL.

As always, Rigby Cooke’s Transport and Logistics team, led by Elizabeth Guerra-Stolfa, is available to assist with any issues members of the supply chain may have.

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