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Make sure your property is truck-ready this harvest

Scott Murray - Monday, October 05, 2015

This post discusses some of the main considerations for those involved with the 2015 grain harvest - especially with respect to the use of road transport to move grain off farm. There are many compliance related aspects when it comes to the movement of goods and commodities by road. There are also substantial penalties for breaching the rules and regulations which govern road transport, so it is worthwhile taking the time to ensure you have a good grasp on exactly what is required. In fact the law requires you to have a good grasp on your requirements and obligations. Did you know that under most penalty provisions of the National Heavy Vehicle law the generally available legal defence of "honest and reasonable mistake of fact" has been specifically excluded?

A tractor and chaser bin in a wheat field during harvest.

1. Understand the Chain of Responsibility (CoR)

With the 2015 harvest season soon to get underway, now is a great time to consider the chain of responsibility issues which may affect anyone using road transport to convey their grain from farm to a receival site.

Does this affect me?

The Heavy Vehicle National Law places an onus on all participants in the supply chain to ensure certain aspects of heavy vehicle management are risk managed.

Whether you are a consignor, a consignee, or you simply loaded the goods (including grain) onto a truck you are part of a group captured by legislative chain of responsibility requirements.

What do I need to think about?

Chain of responsibility legislation covers areas such as vehicle mass, vehicle dimensions, load restraint, fatigue and speed with respect to heavy vehicles.

Complying with relevant fatigue and vehicle mass laws are two primary considerations for anyone in the supply chain affected by the chain of responsibility legislation.

CoR and Vehicle Mass Limits

If you are selling grain or loading grain onto a vehicle it is vital that you know the combination of the vehicle and the maximum allowable mass limits for that combination.

 It is also important to note that there are certain mass limits applicable to each type of vehicle combination. These mass limits are usually categorised in the following way:

1. General Mass Limits - the normal maximum statutory mass applicable to a vehicle combination

2. Concessional Mass Limits - which allow extra mass limits for vehicles which are formally accredited by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme for Mass Management (NHVAS). Vehicles accredited to operate at concessional mass limits are required to display an accreditation sticker on the prime mover of the vehicle. Vehicles operating pursuant to concessional mass limits are allowed to operate on all roads that a vehicle operating under general mass limits may operate on - except for roads or routes with specific vehicle mass restrictions (eg some bridges)

3. Higher Mass Limits - HML allow vehicle combinations to operate at even higher mass limits. Historically in NSW, these vehicles were required to operate pursuant to a permit. Within the last few months the Roads and Maritime Service has dispensed with the need for HML vehicles to acquire a permit prior to operation. However, HML vehicles are still required to be entered into the Intelligent Access Program (IAP). The IAP is a scheme which allows for the remote electronic monitoring of vehicles fitted with specific equipment. HML vehicles may only travel on routes which are approved for HML vehicle travel. The IAP allows a third party to independently monitor the movement of the vehicles to ensure route compliance.

Driver Fatigue

The intensive nature of the harvest season can place particular demands on road transport with respect to the demands on drivers time. Notwithstanding this, it is crucial that legal rest requirements are met by all drivers throughout the harvest season. Driver management plans and load scheduling are crucial to ensure drivers can comply with the rest break requirements.

What types of fatigue management exist?

There are generally 3 types of fatigue management which govern the work and rest hours of a driver of a heavy vehicle. These are:

1. Standard hours - standard hours refers to the fatigue laws which govern all drivers who are not accredited as Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) or Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) drivers. If a driver has not completed the required formal qualifications to drive pursuant to either BFM or AFM then they are restricted to driving standard hours. A driver operating under standard hours may only drive/work a maximum of 12 hours in any 24 hour period. There are specific rest break requirements within this 24 hour period.

2. Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) - to drive pursuant to BFM the driver must have successfully completed the required competency TLIF2010A Apply Fatigue Management Strategies AND the driver's company must be accredited for BFM by the NHVR. The driver must also carry a certification with him from the company which states that the driver is driving pursuant to that company's BFM accreditation. Further, under BFM any person who schedules any loads for that driver must also have formally completed the competency TLIF3063A Administer The Implementation Of Fatigue Management Strategies. Under BFM a driver may drive/work up to a maximum of 14 hours in any 24 hour period. There are also rest break requirements to be considered in that 24 hour period.

3. Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) - is a risk based fatigue management system which must be formally approved on a case by case basis by the NHVR after review and consideration by a number of fatigue experts. AFM accreditation is relatively rare in the transport industry.

The intensive and 24 hour nature of harvest requires special considerations with respect to driver fatigue. As a participant in the supply chain you have a positive obligation to ensure all drivers undertaking freight tasks for your harvest comply with their relevant fatigue management regime and that you have not promoted or encouraged any breaches of fatigue laws.

More information on the various fatigue management regimes applicable to NSW are available here.Grain silos next to a railway line.

2. Understand The NSW Grain Harvest Management Scheme.

In NSW, the Grain Harvest Management Scheme has been continued for 2015/2016. This scheme allows for certain small mass limit exemptions to be given to vehicles carrying grain from a farm to a recieval site. The scheme is not restricted to the wheat harvest and a list of commodities including other cereals, oilseeds and pulses in the scheme are available here.

What do I need to know to participate in the scheme?

It is important to note that there are three main requirements to be met if you decide to operate under the Grain Harvest Management Scheme. These requirements are:

1. The Local Government Area where your farm is situated and where the receival site is located need to be formal participants in the scheme

2. The receival site needs to be a formal participant in the scheme

3. The vehicle combination participating in the scheme must carry a copy of the latest version of the New South Wales Class 3 Grain Harvest Management Scheme Exemption (Notice). Download the latest version from the HVNL Notices page (search for it on the page).

Why have the scheme?

It is also important to remember that the primary purpose of the Grain Harvest Management Scheme increased mass limits is to take into account the difficulties with obtaining accurate weights of loads when loading in the field. The scheme should not be relied upon to simply gain additional mass limits. There are no enforcement allowances beyond these mass limits due to loading inaccuracies in the field. The scheme is designed to cater for that issue. However it is also recognised that the scheme should deliver productivity improvements with growers generally being able to load confidently to the vehicle's legal mass limits. A safe practice would be to continue to load vehicles up to their normal applicable mass limits (eg General, Concessional or HML) unless you have employed reliable and accurate weighing systems either on farm or on the vehicle itself.

Another consideration is that the scheme essentially only introduces 5% increases in mass limits for combinations operating under general mass limits. The mass limit benefit for vehicles operating under CML are less than 5%.

This page on the RMS website has further information on the Grain Harvest Management Scheme and a table illustrating the scheme's vehicle mass limits for various combinations.

A wheat field after harvest.

3. What else do I need to consider?

Permits

You need to ensure that all vehicle combinations that enter or leave your property have been issued any appropriate permits. Many common vehicle combinations can operate pursuant to NHVR National Notices (eg Road Train and B Double) but other high productivity vehicles such as AB Triples, B Triples and PBS vehicles need to have specific permits issued. Both NHVR National Notices and Vehicle Permits must be carried in the vehicle at all times.

Farm Access/Approved routes

If you are using high productivity vehicles, road trains or B Doubles to move grain from your farm, are ALL the roads required to get from farm to receival point formally approved for that type or class of vehicle? In NSW, Queensland and Victoria all applications for road access are required to be submitted to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator - who will then liaise with the relevant road manager for that particular route(s). This process can take some time to complete, especially if the route requires a formal route assessment by the relevant road manager. As such, if you require route access for a route which has not previously been approved, it is a good idea to get the process underway as soon as possible. Don't leave it till the week before you need it!

Facilities and Amenities

If truck drivers are required to have a legislated rest break on your property, or to wait for extended periods of time for any operational reason on your farm, does your property have any facilities that the drivers may access?? eg toilets, showers. If not, are there such facilities within reasonable distance from your property of the grain receival site? The provision of suitable facilities and amenities go a long way to addressing driver comfort and hence driver fatigue considerations.

Summary

There are several important considerations for anyone involved in the harvest process to consider. Primary considerations include:

  • Requirements and obligations pursuant to the National Heavy National law (Chain of Responsibility) - especially with respect to driver fatigue and vehicle mass limits
  • Requirements and obligations if you are going to participate in the NSW Grain Harvest Management Scheme
  • Vehicle permits
  • Route access to the property
  • Driver amenities

These considerations are by no means an exhaustive list of requirements and obligations of a person or entity involved in the movement of freight by road.

Whether you are utilising your own vehicles to move grain, or whether you are engaging transport operators to assist with the task, you need to ensure that you are complying with all of your obligations pursuant to the National Heavy Vehicle Law as a supply chain participant

In future posts I will be discussing the Heavy Vehicle National Law, as it pertains to the Chain of Responsibility, in greater detail.


Disclaimer

The information provided above does not constitute legal advice nor is it intended to constitute legal advice. If you are unsure as to whether a particular law affects you or your obligations under the law, then you should consult a qualified legal practitioner. The information provided in this blog post is intended as information only and to promote awareness of issues affecting road transport.

 

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