Legal Compliance

What you need to know about complying with safety laws

There are three main laws that road transport operators should be aware of when managing safety

1.    Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and Regulations
2.    Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL)
3.    Australian Road Rules

The HVNL safety duties specifically focus on the use of a heavy vehicle on a road. The WHS laws are more holistic and cover all hazards and risks arising from your business.
Operators should be aware that your duties under the WHS law apply in addition to the HVNL.

Work Health and Safety laws

Each state and territory regulates and enforces their own work health and safety laws. The model WHS Act and the model WHS Regulations form the basis of the WHS laws that have been adopted in most jurisdictions, except Western Australia and Victoria, although the laws in these states are similar.

What are my safety duties under WHS laws?

As a business owner you have legal responsibilities to implement health and safety practices in your workplace as soon as you start your business. You must ensure (so far as reasonably practicable), that your business does not create health and safety risks for your employees, contractors, volunteers, visitors, customers or the public.

Officers, such as company directors, have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the business complies with the WHS laws.

All workers, including employees, contractors and apprentices, have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with any reasonable instruction and cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to health and safety at the workplace.

Compliance with WHS laws will help you avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your business caused by workplace injury and illness. This can be achieved by following a systematic and proactive risk management process.

Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL)

The HVNL applies to all heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM). The majority of states and territories, except Northern Territory and Western Australia, have passed a law that either adopts (or duplicates) the HVNL as a law of that State or Territory (with some modifications).

The HVNL outlines the following:
•    the standards that heavy vehicles must meet when on roads;
•    the maximum permissible mass and dimensions of heavy vehicles used on roads;
•    securing and restraining loads on heavy vehicles;
•    preventing drivers of heavy vehicles exceeding speed limits;
•    preventing drivers of heavy vehicles from driving while fatigued.

The HVNL places duties on operators, drivers and other persons who influence transport activities (known as parties in the chain of responsibility), including consignors, consignees, loaders and packers, as well as executive officers.

The HVNL includes four sets of regulations:
1.    Heavy Vehicle (Fatigue Management) National Regulation
2.    Heavy Vehicle (General) National Regulation 
3.    Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) National Regulation 
4.    Heavy Vehicle (Vehicle Standards) National Regulation 
Although the HVNL has not commenced in Western Australia or the Northern Territory at this time, the HVNL applies equally to vehicles from those jurisdictions when they cross into one of the states or territories where the HVNL applies. In some cases, drivers may also need to comply with certain aspects of the HVNL before they cross the border (e.g. work diary requirements).

Australian Road Rules

The Australian Road Rules apply to any heavy or light vehicle operating on Australian roads. Each state and territory has adopted the Australian Road Rules in their own road safety laws. The rules include requirements relating to alcohol and drugs, seatbelts, towing, speeding and other driving behaviour. For example, under the NSW Road Rules the maximum speed limit for all heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes GVM is 100 km/h.