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The weakest link

By FLEET e-news posted 29-04-2014 17:07


Mike Wood, Managing Director at LATUS, Logistics Risk Specialists, on why councils should be taking Chain of Responsibility legislation very seriously. 

Chain of responsibility Thinkstock concept

What is your background, and how did you come to be working in your current role?

My background is as a civil engineer, originally with Vic Roads. I then worked for the Ministry of Transport before moving into the public transport sector, eventually getting into transport. Since about 1997 I’ve been working in the consulting area of logistics and the supply chain.

Can you tell us about your company, LATUS?

LATUS was a joint-venture company I started up with the Victorian Transport Association. As the business grew to be national rather than just Victorian-based, I purchased the other half of the business from the Association, and now we operate on a national basis as well as throughout South East Asia. 

There are three parts of the business. The primary part is supply chain consulting, so designing anything from a transport layout in a yard to warehouses and factories, rail lines and all that logistically based stuff. We work out the efficiencies and then design the building around that, rather than trying to fit with an existing building. We work out the best routing and planning and orientation, then you build the walls around that. It’s a better way to do it. 

The other part of our business is the compliance side of it – which is what I’ll be presenting about at the IPWEA’s Plant and Vehicle Management Workshop in Penrith on 14 May. There’s legislation in Australia called Chain of Responsibility. Basically all of those people in the chain, if they’re deemed to be have done the wrong thing in terms of managing transport, potentially the managers of those organisations can go to jail, at worst. It’s pretty harsh. 

We understand the legislation inside out, how it works, then look at an organisation and say, okay this is where you are – here is the legislation, and here are the holes in your organisation. 

The third aspect of the business is as an RTO [Registered Training Organisation], or a TAFE College. We do qualifications in business and logistics, from Certificate I through to a Diploma. That education side to the business came about because as we were doing the designs and compliance, we were finding people didn’t always know how to apply it because of education or training levels, so we moved further into that education space so we could say here’s the design, here’s the system, here’s how it works, and now we’ve educated you to make it work. 

Briefly, what will your keynote address at the IPWEA Plant & Vehicle Management workshop be about, and why is it important to public works professionals?

The primary focus is on the chain of responsibility and how it applies to councils. A lot of the time, because councils are councils, they don’t necessarily see themselves as part of the transport industry. In many cases what you find is that there are two categories, councils that have all their own equipment, their own workshops and they do everything themselves, and the councils who outsource those things. The issue under Chain of Responsibility is that it doesn’t matter if you run it yourself or outsource it; you still have accountability in terms of how it’s being operated. So even if they’re taking on a Veolia, which is one of the bigger garbage collection agencies, you still have a responsibility as a councillor to ensure Veolia does the right thing. 

There have been several prosecutions under the Chain of Responsibility act for councils. The big area is, mainly because councils do not believe they’re part of the transport industry, it’s just a means to an end for them. Garbage trucks are a classic example. Overloads on garbage trucks are quite common, probably more common than the general transport industry. Fatigue can be an issue as well. Say you have a mowing crew with tractors that take them out on a heavy vehicle to a site, then mow up and down the side of a highway for several hours, and then the same crew will load them back onto the vehicle and drive them back. The fact is that they haven’t been driving the vehicle for that long, it might only be a couple of hours up and back, but they’re also driving the tractor for hours in between, and that all contributes and adds up. 

So there are a lot of things that councils don’t necessarily see themselves as part of, and yet they are in fact quite vulnerable, which is what my keynote address will be about. 

What can councils do to protect themselves?

There is a requirement under the Act that councils “take reasonable steps to ensure they have predicted and prevented a road law breach”. There are 10 categories of road law breach that they could come under, and hundreds of sub-categories under that. There needs to be a system in place so that if there is an investigation the council can present its documentation, its systems in place, to avoid a fine or worse. 

What we’ve done with a few councils – one of which will be speaking at the same IPWEA event in May – is we’ve actually set their systems in place so that they’re operating properly with the correct policies and procedures.

Mike Wood is the keynote speaker at the IPWEA Plant and Vehicle Management Workshop to be held in Penrith on 14 May 2014. Find out more.

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