17 August 2022
This article provides readers with an overview of the relevant regulatory framework surrounding the transport of dangerous goods by road and how this fits in with the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and the obligations of parties in the Chain of Responsibility (CoR).
The standards for the transport of dangerous goods by heavy vehicles cannot be found in the HVNL. Rather, they are set out in the National Transport Commission’s Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (ADG Code). The ADG Code is given legal force in each Australian state and territory by each jurisdiction’s dangerous goods transport laws. These laws should be read in conjunction with the ADG Code in order to determine the requirements for transporting dangerous goods by road.
The HVNL deals with the general and the dangerous goods legislation deals with the particular. The HVNL generally applies to transport activities involving heavy vehicles. It has a broader regulatory focus, targeting fatigue, roadworthiness, mass, dimension and load restraint.
On the other hand, the dangerous goods legislation is limited to specialised transport requirements for dangerous goods. It targets, among other things, the classification, packing and performance testing, segregation and storage and transfer of dangerous goods. It also deals with the carriage of dangerous goods (such as bulk containers), vehicle requirements, special markings and placarding, documentation, safety equipment and emergency equipment for the transport of dangerous goods.
There is no fixed definition of dangerous goods. Instead, they are goods or substances declared or identified as such for the purposes of the applicable dangerous goods legislation. Dangerous goods are categorised under the ADG Code by reference to the hazard or most predominant hazard they present. Some of these classes are subdivided into divisions. These classes and divisions are as follows:
CoR parties transporting dangerous goods using heavy vehicles must comply with the HVNL and the applicable dangerous goods legislation. An offence under the dangerous goods legislation will often result in a HVNL breach.
CoR parties should keep in mind that, similar to the HVNL, state and territory dangerous goods legislation also have provisions that make it an offence for all parties involved in the transport of dangerous goods to be liable for an incident.
For example, in New South Wales, under section 9(1) of the Dangerous Goods (Road and Rail Transport) Act 2008 (NSW), it is an offence for a person involved in the transport of dangerous goods by road or rail to fail to ensure that they are transported in a safe manner. This is unless the accused can show that it was not reasonably practicable for the person to transport the goods safely or if the offence occurred due to causes outside the accused’s control and it was impracticable for the accused to make provision against the offence occurring. A person involved in the transport of dangerous goods could include various parties in the supply chain, including the driver, operator, freight forwarder, packer, loader, or consignor.
Authors: Melanie Long & Nathan Cecil
The information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.