Posted on: January 15, 2021


Heavy commercial transport: what could possibly go wrong?

Heavy commercial transport helps keep our economy running smoothly, but there’s a lot that can go wrong if you’re running a transportation business.

For starters, the transport, postal and warehousing sector accounts for the highest number of worker fatalities, according to Safe Work Australia. Under workplace health and safety laws, individuals or companies in this sector must eliminate or minimise road traffic safety risks whether you own or lease the vehicle. Also, since October 2018, the chain of responsibility law has been in force in NSW, ACT, SA, TAS and VIC. It ensures all parties in the heavy transport supply chain share responsibility to prevent breaches relating to mass, load restraint, dimension, fatigue and speed offences.

While HVNL (Heavy Vehicle National Law) has not yet commenced in WA or NT, HVNL applies equally to vehicles from those jurisdictions when they cross into one of the states or territories where the HVNL applies.

Heavy vehicles weigh 4.5 tonnes fully loaded, either by gross vehicle mass or ATM aggregate trailer mass.

Risks for drivers of such vehicles include time pressures, shift work that’s sedentary, fatigue, poor vehicle design, manual handling, working at height, as well as exposure to gas and other fumes.

Knowing who’s at the wheel

When you hire staff to drive your heavy commercial vehicles, you’ll need to check their records for speeding, drink-driving and other issues. As your broker/adviser, we’ll let you know of any requirements that may apply as they differ from insurer to insurer. When considering your risk, the insurer will take into account your accident history, driver selection & training processes.

Inadequate journey planning

Once they’re at the wheel, your staff need to be aware of, and not tamper with, the 100km/h speed limiters on certain heavy vehicles. You’ll need to factor in the required speed when you do your journey planning. According to the Vehicles as a Workplace National Guide, your journey plan would also include:

  • Scheduling rest stops and overnight stays to avoid driver fatigue
  • Avoiding travelling in bad weather, ‘roo hour’, or when the driver’s likely to be sleepy
  • Giving ample time, so the driver isn’t tempted to speed
  • Mapping a route to avoid particular roads, intersections or turning movements and go for safer, higher quality roads instead
  • Minimising driver distractions when navigating
  • Making sure the load is stored or restrained, so it’s not hazardous for the vehicle occupants or other road users

And, to get a sense of where road freight movement happens in Australia, check out the CSIRO’s tool, the Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT) for the agricultural sector. TraNSIT helps governments and industries reduce their risks of delays and inefficiencies, saving them 70% in costs, says the CSIRO.

Post-crash responses

Your heavy commercial vehicle needs a first aid kit and emergency management plan. Help your staff get emergency services to the site fast – that’s a factor in reducing fatality risks. A safety system within the vehicle could automatically trigger an alert, but this may not work when it’s out of mobile phone range. Ask your drivers for ideas to improve your safety systems. Ensure you record and analyse near misses, incidents and accidents to continuously refine your safety response system.

As your broker/adviser, we can advise you on how to reduce your risk profile overall and boost your protection with recommended insurance coverage. Issues to consider include:

  • Having the right cover if your business expands and you add trucks and drivers in a short period
  • Having the right level of cover – Comprehensive, Legal Liability, Third Party, Fire & Theft or Own Damage
  • Insuring your trucks in your business’ name rather than personally so your personal assets aren’t vulnerable if you’re sued
  • Having cover for damage to a trailer you’re using but your business doesn’t own
  • The security of your vehicles when garaged (this can affect your excess)
  • Meeting the requirements of some companies to have certain insurance cover when transporting for them
  • Having the right insurance for your cargo

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