On 1st October 2018, amendments to improve safety outcomes for the road transport industry, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), took effect. Here we take a look at what’s changed, who is impacted and how businesses can remain compliant.
The HVNL was introduced in 2014 to provide a single national law for the operation of heavy vehicles and a consistent approach to regulating this industry. Since then, every state and territory in Australia (except Western Australia and the Northern Territory) has introduced the HVNL (or a modified version) as their own heavy vehicle law.
Transport safety laws traditionally focused predominantly on the actions of drivers and operators. But as the provision for Chain of Responsibility (CoR) evolves, this legislation increasingly recognises the role that other parties in the supply chain play in keeping people safe.
What’s new?
Wider Chain of Responsibility (CoR)
Recent reforms to the HVNL focus on making safety a more collective responsibility. Under the amended legislation, anyone with influence over transport activities is considered part of the supply chain and are therefore required to do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure the safe operation of heavy vehicles.
According to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) “any time you or your business sends or receives goods using a heavy vehicle with a gross vehicle mass of more than 4.5 tonnes, you become part of the supply chain”. This includes:
  • Vehicle operators
  • The employers of drivers and operators (where the driver is employed)
  • The prime contractor for a drivers and operators (if self employed)
  • Consignor/consignees of any goods in the vehicle
  • Packers and handlers of any goods in the vehicle
  • Loading managers for, or loaders of any goods in the vehicle
  • Unloaders of any goods in the vehicle.
Greater accountability for executives
To achieve more of a duty-of-care approach for the NHVL (similar to the approach taken in Occupational Health and Safety law), greater emphasis has been placed on the role of executives in achieving compliance. Executive officers, employers and prime contractors are now required to proactively anticipate, identify and mitigate the risks involved in transport operations across the supply chain. They can also be held liable – and even face jail time – for breaches.
Harsher penalties
Prosecutions are now easier to bring under the HVNL, with the potential for multiple parties to be found liable. Recent legislative changes also feature harsher penalties – from October 1, companies found to be in breach of the HVNL can face fines as great as $3,000,000. Individual penalties are capped at $300,000 with the possibility of prison sentences of up to five years.
Managing compliance

Having a safety management system in place is the best way to ensure your business understands and can comply with all obligations of the NHVL, including:
  • Identifying, assessing and controlling risk associated with transport activities.
  • Implementing appropriate training practices, processes, reviews and controls.
  • Applying best practice in managing compliance (around speed, fatigue, mass, dimension, loading and vehicle standards).
  • Appropriate documentation and recording of actions taken to manage safety.
  • Regular reporting, including briefings to executive officers.
In addition to organisational responsibilities, executive officers are required to: 
  • Maintain current knowledge on transport safety.
  • Understand an organisation’s transport activities, associated risks and hazards.
  • Appropriately use safety systems and controls to eliminate or minimise risks and hazards.
  • Ensure business practices do not require or encourage drivers to jeopardise safety (driving whilst fatigued, exceeding maximum driving hours, or failing to meet rest requirements).
  • Lead other parties in the supply chain with appropriate guidance on compliance.
Need to know more?
Recent reforms to the HVNL serve as a timely reminder. Regardless of whether we drive heavy vehicles or manage and make decisions on behalf of those who do, we have a responsibility to comply with NHVL and above all else to keep people safe. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of resources to educate and support businesses in doing so – we’ve handpicked and shared a few below.
How do the recent changes and requirements of NHVL impact your business? Will these reforms improve transport safety as anticipated? Please share your thoughts and comments with us via LinkedIn.
Alternatively please contact a member of the Coates Hire team by calling 13 15 52 or submitting an enquiry form below.

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