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  • Trevor Wetmore

Strengthen your link in the Chain of Responsibility

Updated: Sep 28, 2018



This post is based on training seminars that I presented recently for Container Transport Alliance Australia.


 We’re concerned about misquoted container weights leading to disaster at sea. We worry about overweight trucks causing accidents. We struggle to bear the cost of overloaded vehicles damaging our roads.


 But to meet escalating demand for fast freight transport, containers, ships and trucks are all getting heavier/bigger. On Australian roads, B-doubles, Super-Bs and A-Double – mega trucks – are becoming more and more common. Customers’ expectations for faster service at lower cost puts pressure on suppliers. Something has to give, and all too often it’s safety.

 Since 2016, the International Maritime Organisation’s International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) has required a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) for every container loaded onto a ship. But this requirement is inadequately policed and regularly flouted around the world, with terrible consequences for workers, cargo and the environment. If truckers receiving containers off ships and container packers rely on the quoted VGM, they risk being overloaded and causing road damage and casualties.


New safety regulations impact all freight transport operators

 To prevent cost- and corner-cutting on safety and address the serious concerns of the shipping and trucking industries and community, Australian safety legislation is changing, and operators must adapt to our evolving regulatory environment.


 On 1 October 2018, Australian Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) will change to link every party involved in consigning, packing, loading, moving or receiving goods in a Chain of Responsibility (CoR). Parties in the CoR must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the safety of their transport activities and every party may be held liable for safety breaches committed anywhere along the CoR.


 Importantly, the new legislation is about being proactive, not reactive: a business and its executives and workers can be prosecuted for having inadequate safety management systems, even if an incident has not occurred. Directors and Managers are personally liable and must exercise due diligence to ensure their business complies. Penalties are up to $3million for a corporation and up to $300K and/or 5 years in prison for an individual.


What is ‘reasonably practicable’?


 Parties in the CoR must answer the following questions to the satisfaction of the HVNL regulator:

  • To determine the mass of a container, do you weigh the individual contents (SOLAS Method 2), or the packed container (TSOLAS Method 1)?

  • If Type 1, do you weigh before you move the container, or down the road at a public weighbridge, when you’ve already run the risk of driving overloaded?

  • If you weigh before you drive, how accurate is your equipment – when was it last calibrated?

  • How do you determine mass distribution in a container and ensure safe axle loads?

  • How do you record container masses and axle loads and communicate them up and down the CoR?

 ‘She’ll be right’ safety practices – using pressure gauges to estimate axle loads, for example – may pass the pub test today, but will they satisfy the regulator tomorrow? Operators of Heavy Vehicles (>42.5T) are already expected to apply the latest technology in their safety practices. As new technology becomes more cost-effective and convenient (i.e. practicable), it’s increasingly reasonable for the regulator to expect operators of General Access Vehicles or GAVs (<42.5T) to use it… and enjoy its productivity benefits! Tighter safety regulation of GAVs is essential because they perform over 70% of Australia’s shipping container freight task.


Your compliance plan must include communication


 Some operators (larger businesses who can afford it) have expensive on-board mass (OBM) measuring equipment in their trailers, forklifts and reach stackers. To comply with CoR legislation, OBM equipment will need to be regularly calibrated, with documented proof of calibration checks. But without telematics, OBM equipment will not communicate verified mass measurements to others in the CoR, creating a compliance issue.


 As a minimum, the regulator will expect exchange of documents that confirm container mass, load distribution and axle loads. Ideally, parties in the CoR will have business-to-business (B2B) system integration and communicate VGMs either via one-to-one API (Application Programming Interface – a software intermediary), or better via blockchain technology to which all parties in the CoR and regulatory authorities have access.


 Cindicium cuts the cost of compliance


 Cindicium’s innovative, cost-effective CLAW technology helps operators comply with VGM and CoR legislation. Requiring only a single operator and 15 minutes per container, the compact CLAW accurately weighs packed shipping containers on the ground or back of a truck, calculating load distribution and enabling users to share verified data remotely. Compared to using public weighbridges, Cindicium cuts costs by 70%, while greatly enhancing safety and productivity.

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