Heavy Vehicle National Law

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) comes into effect on 10 February 2014 in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. The HVNL aims to establish a national system of regulation, administered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, for all heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes.

Although the HVNL has not yet commenced in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, it is due to be implemented in these territories at a later date.

Western Australia has not chosen to adopt the laws at this stage.

How are employers affected? 

If, as part of your business, you consign, pack, load or receive goods, then your business, directors, partners and managers form part of a chain of responsibility and could be held legally liable for breaches of road transport laws.

If your business is in the transport industry, or if transport is part of your business's supply chain, you will need to familiarise yourself with the new laws, paying particular attention to the obligations placed on any person with influence or control in the transport chain. Under these obligations, corporate entities, directors, partners and managers, must take reasonable steps to ensure that a heavy vehicle driver can perform his or her duties without breaching the road transport laws.

The obligations extend to breaches of fatigue management requirements, speed limits and mass, dimension or loading requirements. Businesses involved in the consigning, packing, loading or receiving of goods may be held liable for breaches of road transport laws regardless of whether they have a direct role in the driving or operating of a heavy vehicle. For example, a business which places unrealistic timeframes on drivers or which does not provide drivers with a quality sleeping environment could be found liable for breaches of fatigue management requirements.

What's the advantage of the new system? 

The good news is that the establishment of a national system through uniform laws administered by a single national regulator will assist the transport industry to comply with their obligations across Australia by reducing inconsistencies and duplication across states and territories. Currently, each state and territory sets out its own heavy vehicle offences and penalties associated with breaches.

From Monday, drivers and operators of heavy vehicles will be subject to the same penalties in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, creating a fairer system.

What should I do? 

As an employer, it is imperative that your business's practices and policies do not inadvertently encourage drivers to breach a road transport law. With this in mind, employers should:

  • familiarise themselves with the new laws and the role of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator; 
  • review their policies to ensure that they encourage good practices in relation to fatigue management and reaching deadlines; 
  • review their operations and processes, including reviewing how you contract with your transport providers to ensure that you are minimising your risk of liability.