After extensive industry consultation, legislation to amend the chain of responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law is likely to come before the Queensland Parliament (as the host jurisdiction) later this year. The amendments will significantly alter the current regime and increase the maximum penalties to align with other national safety laws.

The new chain of responsibility provisions will replace the existing prescriptive obligations on chain of responsibility parties and impose a ‘primary duty’ to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of road transport operations. This will mean that enforcement agencies can bring proceedings against chain of responsibility parties without some harm or incident having to first occur.

Other features of the new regime will include:

  • amendments to the definitions to make it clear that any person, regardless of how they are described, who performs duties associated with road transport operations (such as consigning, loading, unloading or scheduling) is covered by the provisions;
  • a definition of the term ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, with the definition to be consistent with other national safety laws;
  • much higher penalties (with the maximum penalties likely to exceed $1 million) for breach of a primary duty, with any penalties to be based on a hierarchy dependent on risk and the nature of any harm or damage that is caused;
  • additional investigative powers for enforcement agencies to require parties to produce documents and give evidence; and
  • the imposition of due diligence obligations on executive officers of parties in the chain of responsibility.

In order to allow industry and regulators to adjust their operations, an implementation period of 12 months from the date the amending legislation is passed by the Queensland Parliament is proposed.

Once the full text of the Bill to amend the legislation is available, we will provide more details on the proposed changes and their likely impact on participants in heavy vehicle industry.