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Do you know who’s responsible when transporting your livestock?

09 July 2021

Transporting livestock is a regular activity for most producers but do you know who is actually responsible for your livestock whilst they are in transit?

MLA supports TruckSafe as a standard to ensure livestock are transported in a way which reduces stress and minimises risks to animal welfare. TruckSafe is a not-for-profit world class business and risk management system, aimed at improving the safety and professionalism of Australian trucking operators.

Here, Friday Feedback talks to TruckSafe board member and lawyer, Nathan Cecil who specialises in heavy vehicle regulation and Chain of Responsibility (CoR) law to find out:

  • Producers' roles and responsibilities when transporting livestock
  • how to reduce risks related to the safety of transport tasks.

Chain of Responsibility (CoR)

It’s important for producers to be aware of who is transporting their livestock because producers will often be parties in the CoR, sharing the duty to ensure their livestock are transported safely.

“In some instances, producers will have a solo duty for example, ensuring livestock are ready for loading and drivers are not unreasonably delayed,” Nathan said.

“The transport operator may also have a solo duty such as ensuring their vehicle is maintained.

“However, in many cases, both parties will have a shared duty covering the mass and loading. For example, the transport operator must ensure the truck is not overloaded, but may only be able to do this if given accurate information in relation to the load from the producer.

“There's a lot of myth building out there that the producer is responsible for everything and they would have to check the driver’s licence, or their eyes and make sure they don't look fatigued.  But that's not generally the case because they don't have control over those aspects of the transport task.”

Producers need to rely on the transport operators they engage to ensure they fulfil their part of any shared safety functions and do not expose producers to the risk of breach and penalty.

Nathan said the best way to do this is to consult with them to ensure they understand the CoR safety risks arising from the activity and have practices in place to address those risks – this is where the TruckSafe accreditation program comes in.

“By using a TruckSafe accredited transporter, you can take assurance that someone has independently reviewed transport operator’s activities and business practices and said they meet the standard. It’s like the Heart Foundation tick of approval, but for transport,” Nathan said.

What are producers’ responsible for?

Producers must ensure the safety of any heavy vehicle related transport activity they perform, control or have influence over.

Producers’ main responsibility will be to ensure their conduct does not contribute to other parties in the CoR acting in an unsafe manner, this means:

  • providing accurate information about the weight of livestock to be loaded
  • being realistic and communicating with transport operators about loading, unloading and journey times
  • ensuring livestock are ready to load and drivers are not unreasonably delayed
  • if producers load the livestock, they must ensure the load does not exceed vehicle mass limits.

Three steps to reduce livestock transport risks

1. Develop easy to follow working practices

Producers should make sure their own activities are conducted safely, so it’s key to have working practices in place that all employees on-farm can follow that cover what:

  • information to give the transport operator
    • completed documentation including the NVD (current version 0720)
    • pre-treatment declarations in the case of moving cattle tick carriers
    • contact details for destination of consignment
    • advice at the point of loading of any special load (mixing) requirements
    • time off water
  • information you need from the transport operator
  • to look out for when loading livestock.

“Producers should implement simple and easy to follow written working practices that guide how any transport activity is to be done safely and in accordance with CoR laws,” Nathan said.

“This could be something as simple as a one page resource on what to do when you're loading a vehicle or preparing livestock for loading.”

2. Screen your transport operator

Nathan says producers should only work with other parties in the CoR who they are reasonably satisfied are aware of their CoR obligations, and appear to have practices in place to meet those obligations.

“This may mean asking introductory questions about their CoR compliance awareness and practices, including what information, assistance or conduct they need from the producer in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly and safely,” Nathan said.

“One of the best ways to do this is to ask if the transport operator is accredited under any independent safety or compliance scheme.”

3. Have a contract in place

Producers should ensure their contracts or arrangements with other parties in the CoR meet compliance expectations and consequences for non-compliance are very clear.

“Having clear compliance expectations and consequences is what will give producers the legal power to step in and avoid breaches or to hold others accountable for breaches if they do not perform,” Nathan said.

“When incidents occur, regulators ask to see contracts as evidence that producers are managing the performance of third party transport engagements – so it’s essential you have them in place and are able to produce them upon request.

“TruckSafe  provides a safety management system which is documented and compliance is monitored, which allows a producer to provide documents to an investigator or the court and say, here's the evidence that what I've been doing is right and the people that I've been engaging with have been doing the right thing as well.”

Here are five things a TruckSafe accredited transport operator will do to reduce the risks associated with transporting your livestock.

  1. Meet high standards that ensure the suitability, safety and maintenance of vehicles and equipment:
    • these standards reduce safety risks and ensure drivers, animal handlers and livestock are well protected from injury
    • daily documented vehicle checks
    • annual road worthy assessments.
  2. Livestock crates and equipment provide adequate space and ventilation for the livestock carried and allow for correct loading densities, including:
    • suitable materials used in construction, flooring is sound underfoot and well maintained.
  3. Personnel are competent to conduct an assessment of livestock to ensure they are fit to load and manage:
    • stock densities
    • segregation of livestock
    • observation of livestock during the journey.
  4. TruckSafe standards include policies to ensure all drivers have:
    • current medical assessments and are fit for duty.
  5. Implement mass, dimension, loading and load restraint policies including:
    • dimension and loading checks (both pre trip and during journey)
    • procedures to ensure all necessary permits are obtained
    • recording evidence of weight specific to the vehicle
    • procedures to ensure loads are adequately restrained or contained.