If you transport livestock on land, your responsibilities as a driver are governed by the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines (the “Guidelines”), and they may be broader than you think.
The Guidelines have been in force throughout much of Australia since mid 2013, with South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory adopting the standards. Enforcement of the Guidelines in Queensland will start on 1 August 2014. As most drivers cross state borders, the Guidelines are already relevant to the majority of livestock transporters.
The Guidelines are quite detailed, and so we cannot explore all of your responsibilities in this article – however there are some general issues arising out of the Guidelines that you should be aware of.
The Guidelines are broken into two parts, being general transport standards for all species, and then specific guidelines for individual species.Although the Guidelines apply to all persons involved in the care and management of livestock to be transported, as drivers, you may not realise how far your obligations go.
As a driver, you are part of the chain of responsibility for the welfare of the animals you are transporting. Livestock transport begins at the loading of livestock into a container or vehicle, and finishes upon unloading at the final destination.
Some responsibilities of drivers are straightforward – such as driving in a manner that minimises the impact of transport on the welfare of the livestock or notifying and transferring responsibility for the livestock to the responsible person upon unloading at your final destination. However, some of the responsibilities are more burdensome.
The responsibility of a driver starts upon loading. Loading includes the inspection and assessment of the livestock as they are loaded – you must ensure that the animals are fit for the intended journey. This means that you must be able to recognise and understand signs that the livestock are fit for transport – if they are not, you should not load or transport them. This responsibility is shared by the consigner. You need to be ready to discuss this issue with the consigner at the time of loading if you have any doubts about the condition of the livestock you are transporting.
As you load, you are responsible for assessing the loading density for each pen or division in the livestock crate in order to minimise risks to the welfare of the livestock – you have the final decision on loading density. When making your determination, you must take into account things like:
- the species of the livestock
- the size and body condition of the livestock
- horn status
- predicted weather conditions
- the nature of the intended journey.
This determination must also be made in conjunction with your other responsibilities, such as access to water for the livestock and the fact that their limbs must remain inside the vehicle at all times.
The Guidelines also dictate how you may load livestock into a vehicle. For example, you must not lift livestock (except poultry) by the head, ears, horns, neck, tail, wool hair or feathers only. Nor can you lift livestock by a single leg (except for poultry and sheep, goats and pigs weighing less than 15kg).
Most Australian livestock transporters will already be working in compliance with the Guidelines. Although not currently in force in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, it is expected that they will become enforceable during 2014.
So what happens if you fail to comply?
Each state has its own penalty regimes in relation to the Guidelines. For example, in South Australia, the penalties for a driver breaching the obligations set out above (such as transporting livestock that is not fit for transport, handling livestock in an inappropriate manner when loading, and exceeding an appropriate loading density) is $2,500 per offence. In Victoria, the maximum penalty for the same breaches is currently $2,887.20 and will be raised to $2,952.20 and in the Northern Territory, you risk a penalty of between $7,000 and $14,000.
The penalties for breaching the Guidelines can be substantial, and so it is important to be familiar with your obligations. Be prepared to ask for additional training if you think you need it to perform your responsibilities properly. With good planning, and awareness of your obligations, you will be ready to confidently comply with the Guidelines.
Authors: Kylie Hall and Nicola Hope
Alistair Salmon, Partner
T +61 2 8083 0467
Ron Eames, Partner
T: +61 7 3135 0629
This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed above.