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WH&S regulations in the heavy vehicle industry: A change is coming

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Recent tragic events have kickstarted heavy vehicle industry regulators into first gear. These regulators are catching up with technology, becoming more active, and receiving better funding.

Is your fleet’s regulatory compliance up to standard, and as an organisation are you taking it seriously?

Our in-house compliance team at Fleetyr has outlined some recent legal findings in the courts, so you can make sure you are aware of what could happen if your standards have slipped.

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 is premised on the core vision of “Healthy, safe and productive working lives”. This vision is truly implemented when integrating systems, education, and awareness, are supported by good governance. Safety culture does not happen overnight.

It is a long journey, and oftentimes culture improves by learning through big mistakes, hefty fines, infringement notices, sanctions, imprisonment, or at its worst, death.

Historical court outcomes in respect of Heavy Vehicles National Law offences were as follows:

  • between $10,000 to $60,000 fines against either the company or the driver
  • criminal convictions recorded against the driver or the company
  • licence disqualification against the driver between 3 to 6 months

In addition, employers can face up to 100 penalty units for failing to report notifiable incidents under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (and similar WHS regulations in other states). Mere ignorance of the law will not hold up in court. Employers must know their work health and safety obligations to their staff to ensure company sustainability.

Indeed, a transport company pleaded guilty to failing to notify the serious incidents to the regulator. In this instance, the incident occurred in 2018, and the regulator was only notified a year later. The magistrate notes that “the company had by its own omission failed in its duty, and that ignorance of the law was not an excuse, observing that the director was an older man who could be considered old-school.”

The repercussions faced by the truck company involved in the Victoria Eastern Freeway truck crash resulting in the death of four police officers may be seen as too lenient. The truck driver was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment (R v Singh [2021] VSC 182). Connect Logistics, owner of the truck, was issued with 35 infringement notices.  

It may seem that issuance of an infringement notice is not a strong deterrent from cutting corners. This is seen when truck companies fail to ensure their fleet conforms with the vehicle standard regulations (i.e. regular roadworthy check and maintenance) and have safety management systems in place to mitigate fatigue risks and monitor driver behaviours. The risks incurred and the reputational damage, however, is irreparable.

In addition, one driver was charged with “critical hours” fatigue breaches, and 15 drivers were issued with fines for overwork resulting in fatigue and “work diary administration issues”.

Transport companies should also be aware of damages awarded for WorkCover claims of injured employees. The Court awarded $764k in damages to an injured truck driver for sustaining lower back disc protrusion whilst driving a truck with a faulty seat over a period of months (Peebles v WorkCover Queensland [2020] QSC 106).

The regulatory sanctions and civil claims damages significantly impact a company’s reputation, finance (i.e., increase in insurance premiums, loss of revenue, loss of clients), employee morale, and potentially the company’s viability.

The transport industry has changed over the past decade, particularly in technology. Analytics on driver fatigue, telematics, job coordination, etc., can easily assist in monitoring compliance with vehicle standard regulations and work health and safety requirements.

Get in touch with us to talk about fleet compliance analytics to mitigate compliance risks.  

Tim Hill

As an experienced startup leader hailing from sunny Queensland, Tim is a natural problem solver and innovative thinker — yet simultaneously everyone's best mate. As the Founder and CEO of Fleetyr, Tim is on a mission to bring affordable, simplified, and integrated mobility analytics to the entire industry worldwide. Connect with Tim.