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Everyone’s responsibility: How to understand your role in the Chain of Responsibility

Scott Murray - Friday, December 04, 2015

Chain of responsibility legislation, or COR as it is commonly referred to, is a major legislative requirement for anyone utilising road transport to move freight.

Whilst the term COR is often referred to in road transport circles, many people remain unclear of what COR actually is and what it actually does.

What is the Chain of Responsibility?

COR is a concept in road transport which seeks to attribute obligations and culpability, both jointly and severally, to individual supply chain participants. What this means is that breaches of law by one party are taken to also be breaches committed by each other party – irrespective of whether any of those other parties actually committed the breach, or even knew the breach had been committed.

What does COR do?

Chain of responsibility legislation is designed to ensure all participants in the supply chain work harmoniously and collaboratively to ensure certain legal obligations around road safety are met. Such legislation also aims at ensuring a party, or parties, within the supply chain do not unduly or unlawfully pressure other supply chain participants into breaching legislation.

Close up photo of a metal chain.

What does COR cover?

Generally speaking, COR covers the following areas of road transport compliance:

  • Mass (the weights of vehicles and their loads)
  • Vehicle dimensions (the dimensions of vehicles and their loads)
  • Load restraint (restraining of loads securely)
  • Fatigue Management (driver fatigue and log books)
  • Speeding (excessive vehicle speed)

This means that participants in the supply chain are equally liable for any offences committed by another party in the supply chain, if the offences relate to those categories listed above.

Am I a supply chain participant?

In terms of the Heavy Vehicle National Law, which is the authoritative law for heavy vehicles in most Australian States (WA and the Territories are not included in the law), supply chain participants are generally listed as any of the following (with a few exceptions depending on the particular aspect of compliance):

  • An employer of a driver
  • A prime contractor of a driver (if the driver is self employed)
  • An operator of the vehicle
  • A scheduler for the vehicle
  • A consignor of any goods for transport by the vehicle that are in the vehicle
  • A consignee of any goods in the vehicle
  • A loading manager for any goods in the vehicle
  • A loader of any goods in the vehicle
  • An unloader of goods in the vehicle

As you can see, there are a large number of participants, all with varying roles, captured under COR legislation.

COR in action

A recent NSW Local Court decision has highlighted the need for all parties in the road transport supply chain to remain vigilant and pro active regarding their legislative obligations.

According to an article by Steve Skinner at ATN, at the Downing Centre Local Court in October, two directors of a company which imported products into Australia via containers were each fined over $4000 and their company fined $24750. The defendants were also ordered to pay $170,000 in costs to the prosecution.

According to the article, the Court action was initiated after the death of a motorist was caused by a truck rollover attributed to the movement of unsecured contents of a container.

The full article can be found here.


Legal dictionary with scales and a gavel.

The bottom line

Modern road transport legislative schemes aren’t just about trucks and truck companies. Sure, truck companies and their drivers still have a vital part to play in the safe movement of freight around Australia – and the law recognises this. However, the safe movement of freight is now legislatively bound to all participants in the supply chain; and it’s a joint responsibility.

Because of the complexity of the Chain of Responsibility legislation, in future posts I will discuss the various aspects of the legislation specifically, focussing on such areas as fatigue, speed, mass etc.

In the meantime, for more information on the Heavy Vehicle National Law visit the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator site.

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