What do you say “yet another bit of legislation!”— Yes the “Chain of Maintenance” is here,
“what do you mean you have never heard of it?”
Hmmm well probably not…. I have just created that term as I write this article. Ok so it’s something I just conjured up, but believe me it’s not a myth it’s a reality and that reality is not really that new. If you read the CoR bill under section 159(2) (a)(b)(c), “reasonable steps of defence” states
(2) It is a defence to a charge for an offence to which this section applies alleged to have been committed by a person as driver of the vehicle or combination if the person establishes that the person (whether as driver or otherwise):
(a) did not cause or contribute to the deficiencies concerning the vehicle or combination and had no responsibility for or control over the maintenance of the vehicle or combination or its equipment at any relevant time; and
(b) did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known of the deficiencies; and
(c) could not reasonably be expected to have sought to ascertain whether there were or were likely to be deficiencies concerning the vehicle or combination.
As such if it is not a problem why would you need “Reasonable Steps of Defence” anyway? Regardless of the fact that it is implicit, is it not just good corporate responsibility to have a vehicle maintained in a legal road worthy manner under duty of care.
There are many items that are implicit under the act that can be applied and the only reason they have not become obvious so far is that they have not been tested in a court of law. But let’s examine statement “2b” above, “did not know or could not be reasonably expected to know” that may well be suitable for a driver as a reasonable steps defence, but what of those that organise or conduct the maintenance of the equipment? These people should have been qualified to a suitable level to be able to determine what was safe or not. If they did not detect a problem what was the reason? If we examine potential reasons for missing items we can also attribute responsibility for the failure. It maybe:
* They were not formally qualified, or
* They did not have the right tools, or
* Inappropriate amount of time allocated, or
* Inappropriate budget to resolve the issue!
Whichever way you look at this, there is always someone that has the control of all these issues under the “Chain of Maintenance”. Inside a company structure there may be several people involved in the chain and all have some form of accountability and thus responsibility. How does that relate to a single person owner operator? No different, the fact that a single person is a driver, a manager, a mechanic etc etc. the roles are still there, the only difference is that is it a single person.
Therefore extending this “Chain of Maintenance”, if a company has contracted transport services and has decided to use a single owner operator to complete their distribution, that company is now the “Consignor” and as such has control, so what have they done to ensure that the maintenance ?