Giving the industry a voice on load restraint

When it comes to managing load restraint, a practical guide is a critical tool. Due to the legal consequences that can come into play, it’s vital that the guide is easily applied to daily use. Transport drivers and operators must be given the opportunity to have their say on best-practice load restraint.

Being the voice of our members is at the heart of our mission at NatRoad, and we don’t take the issue of speaking on behalf of the industry lightly. Lately we have been focused on the topic of load restraint, due to a call for submissions on the third edition of the Load Restraint Guide in development by the National Transport Commission (NTC). The current guide was published in 2004.

The Load Restraint Guide is a concern for every member. It has real implications for all operators and is something NatRoad members have been keen to share their opinions on. Getting the guide wrong is not an option.
After a call for feedback and a number of conversations with members, NatRoad made submissions to the NTC in June and July this year. Our submissions called for stronger practical applications for those using the guide daily, clearer definitions and addressed a number of other concerns.

The most problematic issue with the proposed guide was around the effective banning of over-centre levers, commonly known as ‘dogs’. Members rejected the treatment in the draft guide that instructed operators not to use dogs due to the safety risk in tensioning.

Our submission asked the question – has consideration been given to the notice period needed to re-equip fleets? And how much it might cost operators to replace this equipment? The answer is no, so we have asked for the reversal of the effective ban on dogs. 

Any banning of the use of dogs has the potential to add millions of dollars in costs to the industry. We’ve estimated the costs for a member to replace its dogs could be up to $20,000 per business.
The draft guide also lacked clarity around the different types of dogs and whether they will all attract the same rules. An example is the innovation of ‘recoil-less’ dogs that reduce the tension risk outlined in the draft guide, as well as the use of ‘tensioning bars’. As we know, not all dogs are the same breed and a blanket approach is not the right solution.

NatRoad recommends that rather than banning dogs, a note referring to the application of risk principles from Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) law is a better solution.
As part of our submissions, NatRoad emphasised the need to separate legal obligation from guidance, especially in light of the looming introduction of Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws. Our members expressed concern that enforcement agencies have been inflexible in regard to the current Load Restraint Guide. This pedantic approach is a worry to many and the separation of the broad requirements of the law from practical guidance is supported. 

Submissions for feedback on the draft guide closed on 4 August. It is expected that transport ministers will consider the recommendations from the NTC in November 2017, and the NTC aims to release the revised guide in mid-2018.

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