Governments must lead by example on safety

The logo of the Australian Logistics Council highlights our organisation’s mission as the pursuit of supply chain efficiency and safety.

The two concepts are given equal prominence for the simple reason that they are inextricably linked. A supply chain that is not safe can never be efficient.

Accidents – whether they occur in the workplace, in the warehouse or on the road – cause delays, contribute to increased business costs and cause harm to the freight logistics industry’s most valuable asset – its people.

Consequently, Australia’s major freight logistics companies are all committed to providing safe workplaces for their employees and to ensuring safety risks are responsibly and effectively managed.

Maintaining and continuously improving safety standards not only makes good business sense it also fulfils industry’s commitment to achieve a safe supply chain for all Australians including the travelling public.

Regular readers of Prime Mover will recall that in November 2018, ALC and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) released an industry-wide Master Code for heavy vehicle safety, designed to provide all parties within the supply chain with the sort of practical guidance they need to meet their Chain of Responsibility (CoR) obligations under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

With the Master Code now registered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, all parties with CoR obligations can be confident there is an authoritative source of information available that sets out the safety risks they need to manage, and provides suggestions that will permit them to do so.

Yet, effective industry leadership is not merely about launching a document and hoping that industry participants will find their own way to it.

The importance of safety must be continually reinforced by ensuring awareness and compliance with safety requirements are a core focus for all those working in the industry.

Accordingly, ALC is proactively working with its members to ensure that we identify opportunities for the Master Code to make a genuine difference to safety outcomes.

One such opportunity is to use government procurement practices to lift the profile of safety matters.

Given the number of heavy vehicles used in the day-to-day provision of government services and in the delivery of major infrastructure projects, requiring compliance with the Master Code would be a clear way for all governments to demonstrate leadership and commitment to best practice in heavy vehicle safety.

Over recent weeks, ALC has been discussing these matters with senior ministerial and departmental figures around Australia, highlighting the potential of the Master Code to make certain that heavy vehicle safety is given the prominence it deserves when governments award contracts.

Building Master Code compliance into procurement arrangements would deliver a number of benefits for governments and for the wider community.

Firstly, it will give governments themselves confidence that those to whom they award contracts are complying with their CoR obligations and have appropriate safety management systems in place.

This is critical in protecting taxpayers from costly litigation, as well as promoting the physical safety of the industry’s workers and all road users.

Next, it will raise the profile of CoR and safety within the industry, as those heavy vehicle operators looking to win government contracts understand they must comply with the Master Code.

This will be particularly important to promote awareness and compliance among smaller operators and in regional communities.

Finally, building Master Code compliance into government procurement arrangements is a powerful demonstration to the wider community that their governments are taking heavy vehicle safety seriously – leading by example in ensuring that safety is a prime consideration in the awarding of contracts.

Taking this step would not impose especially onerous requirements on either governments or on heavy vehicle operators.

After all, the Master Code simply allows parties to ensure they are doing the things they need to be doing to meet their legal obligations when it comes to heavy vehicle safety.

Compliance with the law shouldn’t be regarded as a ‘burden’, but rather as an essential part of everyday business practice.

Requiring those seeking government contracts to demonstrate they are doing the right thing by meeting their obligations around heavy vehicle safety is a critical step in maintaining a positive profile for the industry – and ensuring a process of continuous improvement when it comes to safety matters.

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