Transporting Heavy Loads

April 21st, 2011

The recent closure of the F3, and some of the busiest lanes in the state, due to a truck spilling part of its load should trigger all transporting businesses to re-evaluate their heavy load transportation procedures. It’s a miracle no one was injured when the 45-tonne concrete bridge span the truck was transporting – with a length of 50 metres – partly fell off the back. The slab wreaked havoc on traffic flow in the area, until a 200 tonne crane arrived to remove it and put a contra-flow in place.

This accident may have been preventable by regularly referencing the Industry Codes of Practice for Heavy Vehicle Mass, Dimension and Load restraint, and ensuring procedures comply with the code.

Purpose of Industry Code of Practice

While the company responsible for causing havoc on the F3 remains unidentified in media reports, they would likely be under investigation by regulation authorities as to whether the load was of acceptable dimensions and weight.

It may be assumed that the company failed to comply as the laws are designed to improve road safety and reduce infrastructure damage through the development of effective, industry-specific codes of practice for compliance with heavy vehicle mass, dimension and load restraint requirements.

They also aim to prevent unfair competitive advantage, which often leads to transportation companies overlooking specifics in order to increase efficiency.

What you can do

Companies should familiarise themselves with the basic facts of heavy load transportation, such as the categorisation of any vehicles over 4.5 tonnes as a ‘heavy vehicle’. Knowing the rules well can ensure adherence to universal codes, but may also help businesses implement a voluntary code of conduct, developed by and for a particular industry or business.

The code identifies appropriate and effective practices for that industry or business to achieve compliance with those requirements and is developed in consultation with all relevant stakeholders. The code may be registered by an authority if it is submitted by the industry or business for registration and meets all of the matters addressed in these guidelines.

Further outcomes

Once the procedures are in place, the company must also develop ways to prove compliance at any given time, ensuring the avoidance of any legal enquiry and consequent persecution.

Breaches of the code, varying in severity, can attract fines anywhere between $1,100 and $55, 000, and result in loss of demerit points or even driver’s licence. However, having proof of reasonable steps taken to prevent breach occurring, even after the breach has occurred, can reduce punishment issued by the court.

Examples of what may be considered as reasonable steps might be reviewing the way your business operates, to ensure compliance, developing a code of practice for your specific industry, implementing an approach for risk management, using accreditation schemes and making necessary changes to your commercial arrangements to demonstrate your commitment to risk management.

While research and development of a code may require additional funding and time during the initial stages, having a code that is custom made to fit your business will ensure easier adherence and proof of compliance.

Being able to quickly and efficiently resolve legal matters can increase resource efficiency dramatically in the long term. A code can also reassure current and potential clients that the company is dedicated to running the business in an appropriate manner, which will ensure consistent, high quality service.