In recent weeks we have seen many reports on the Cootes incident in Mona Vale NSW. With a push to further involve equipment in any Chain of Responsibility prosecution. The ATA has been vocal with comments relating to maintenance be included under Chain of Responsibility. However, vehicle maintenance under the Chain of Responsibility act is covered by default, there are several references to maintenance completed and records of what has been done, as such maintenance is implicit under the act.
Chain of Responsibility Maintenance
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. Incidents such as Mona Vale will see the tests being applied and maintenance becoming a more prominent issue.
So what of Chain of Responsibility compliant equipment?
Is the equipment on our roads today fit for purpose and as such compliant? I have seen many pieces of equipment that do not even come close to being compliant. When companies are asked why the equipment is not suitable, particularly trailers which are often years old, the response is often “the good stuff is too expensive”. So that leads us to what equipment should be in place and where does it come from? Domestically produced equipment has always been regarded as the best of breed. However we are now seeing this change and imported equipment is now on our shores and the quality is equal too, if not better than the domestic equipment, and of course the price is significantly less. So now, there is little or no excuse for having shoddy non-compliant equipment on our roads. Even with this more cost effective equipment, companies still tell us they “can’t afford it”. The question is can you, as a transport operator or a transport consumer, NOT afford compliant equipment. Often new trailers have a better tare and hence more payload, less maintenance and down time, let alone, the prevention of a single breach which the fine could be half of that of a new trailer. Consider efficiency and consequential loss before writing off the idea of new C&E compliant equipment.
Once we have covered that argument the next one is the “poor quality of imported stuff”! Well I disagree on that count as many of the main stream manufacturers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the materials and the build of imported trailer chassis are the equal to, or better than anything built domestically. To give credence to this, nearly all quality Australian manufacturers including Mammoth have set up exemplary manufacturing businesses overseas and bring the trailer chassis in to be finished locally. As full warranty exists on all the components on the trailer and in some cases the chassis of imported trailers are warranted longer than domestic trailer chassis. I am sure if you asked any of these manufacturers to demonstrate the payback on a more efficient and more importantly a compliant bit of equipment I am sure they would be happy to help, If not some of my team would be more than willing to help.
Chain of Responsibility Equipment Summary
In summary, there is an obligation under Chain of Responsibility to have compliant systems and compliant equipment. Often the best way to achieve compliance and efficiency is with newer equipment that is compliant from the outset rather than spending a fortune on trying to an old bit of gear up to speed. So do your maths before rejecting the idea of new equipment.