Weekly News – ALRTA establishes National Animal Welfare Committee, Pushing for CoR Reform, National Council Meeting

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ALRTA ESTABLISHES NATIONAL ANIMAL WELFARE COMMITTEE

This week the ALRTA’s newly established National Animal Welfare Committee was convened for the first time. The new committee has expert representation from four of the ALRTA’s member states (NSW, VIC, QLD & WA) and will make recommendations to the ALRTA National Council about specific issues of national importance. The ALRTA congratulates Mr Graeme Hoare of Martins Stock Haulage who was appointed as the inaugural committee Chair.

As all transport operators and drivers know, this area has received a lot of community and political attention in recent years. At the same time it is becoming increasingly technical and regulated with the introduction of new laws such as the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock and the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme.  The new committee will help the ALRTA engage on a broader range of emerging issues while also maintaining a proactive welfare agenda.

PUSHING FOR CHAIN OF RESPONSIBILITY REFORM

Chain of responsibility (CoR) law is a complicated beast. Most drivers and operators have a hard time understanding all of their own obligations let alone the obligations of the other parties in the chain like loaders, packers, consignors, schedulers and senior managers. Even regulators, enforcement officers and the courts struggle with the detail! What is very well understood however is that the law targets the off-road parties that are responsible for unsafe on-road behaviours.

Like a lot of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), the legislation for fatigue, speed and MDLR (mass, dimension, load restraint) was drafted independently over several decades. These sections first appeared in uniform model laws developed by the NTC but were then changed by the states to suit themselves – which is why we eventually had to move to the HVNL.

While we do now have consistent laws across the participating jurisdictions, the laws themselves remain less than perfect and in some cases are fundamentally inconsistent within the HVNL.

For example, the chapter on fatigue contains a general duty that compels all parties in the chain to take reasonable steps to prevent a driver driving while fatigued. This is very much in line with how most people think about the law.  However, what you may not realise is that the corresponding chapters on speed and MDLR do not actually contain a general duty. Instead, these rely on specific duties which require or prohibit particular things.

Now that Ministers have agreed to investigate extending CoR to include vehicle maintenance, it raises the question: which type of CoR law is best and why can’t it all be the same?

The ALRTA is enthusiastically campaigning for consistency across all CoR law. Using the ‘best’ model as the template will help to improve the law right at its heart. This will benefit chain parties by making the laws easier to understand and apply while also helping regulators to more effectively enforce the laws.

This week I attended a workshop at the National Transport Commission on CoR duties and made a presentation to industry and government representatives about why the ALRTA favours a consistent model based on chapter-specific general duties underpinned by specific duties.

Both types of duties are required because each has its own unique benefits and limitations. Specific duties are ideal where they can be easily defined and articulated.  For example, ‘Each consignor or packer commits an offence if the weight of the container exceeds the maximum gross weight marked on the container or the containers safety approval plate’.  This is clear and simple – but it also encourages ‘tick the box’ compliance were parties only do the legal minimum.

On the other hand, general duties require parties to take all reasonable steps to address safety issues before they arise, or as soon as they become aware of a new safety issue. Together, general and specific duties establish a proactive approach to safety while also giving certainty about the things that absolutely must be done.

The NTC will assess the views put forward by stakeholders and release a public consultation paper in November 2014. The ALRTA will continue to consult with our state associations and push for reform in this important area as part of a package of changes to improve CoR and bring it up to the intended standard.

NATIONAL COUNCIL MEETING

The ALRTA National Council will meet in Canberra on Thursday, 23 October 2014. A delegation of Council members will also be meeting with several politicians, advisors and departmental officials. If you would like more information please contact the ALRTA Secretariat.

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