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Throughout most of Australia, the use of heavy vehicles is governed by the Heavy Vehicle National Law (SA) Act 2013 adopts the HVNL and applies its provisions to the use of heavy vehicles in SA. A heavy vehicle is defined as a vehicle with a gross vehicle mass or aggregate trailer mass of more than 4.5 tonnes.

Until recently, the HVNL operated on a 'deemed liability' basis, meaning parties in the 'chain of responsibility' were deemed liable, primarily in relation to offences against fatigue, speed, mass, dimension and loading.

On October 1, a series of legislative changes abolished deemed liability and replaced it with a broad general duty that applies to everyone in the CoR, who now must, as far as is reasonably practical, ensure the safety of transport activities. This is done by reference to the conduct of the person. The HVNL defines conduct as including asking, directing or requiring another person to do, or not to do, something.

The CoR places an onus on any party who is involved in 'transport activities' of a heavy vehicle. This extends to anyone who is consigning goods for transport using the vehicles, packing goods for transport using the vehicles, loading goods onto the vehicle and receiving goods from the vehicle.

This means everyone in agriculture needs to be aware of the potential risks they are facing and need to take steps to enusre the safety of heavy vehicle transport activities, so far as it is reasonable, by removing or minimising risks.

This duty only extends to what an individual can influence or has control of. Reasonable steps include ensuring that your own conduct does not directly or indirectly encourage a driver to break the law, such as not placing time restraints that indirectly encourage drivers to speed to meet unrealistic demands.

While everyone wants to 'load and forget', this is no longer an option; yet another burden is being placed on businesses to make sure others are 'doing the right thing'.

This article was written by Anthony Kelly and was published in The Stock Journal on Thursday 21 March 2019.