TT Talk - Australia acts against overweight containers

US President Harry S Truman famously had a sign on his desk that proclaimed "The Buck stops here". Iain Sharples of the Club's Sydney office reports that the Australian government is following that example and introducing legislation to make sure that responsibility for container overloading ends with the company that did it.

The reforms, known as Compliance & Enforcement, emphasise the importance of accurate container weight declarations (CWDs) in road haulage; they introduce the concept of "chain of responsibility", extending the obligation for accurate weight declarations to everyone involved in the movement. Penalties for non-compliance will be enforced against the person who gave the overweight (or incorrectly-declared) container to the haulier or the Australian entity that provides the inaccurate weight declaration. In the case of exports, this would usually be the shipper, but for imports it is likely to be the agent of the company responsible for the ocean transit. Civil claims could also be made against that agent on behalf of anyone killed or injured in an accident resulting from an incorrect declaration, as well as actions in respect of property damage.

While it is unlikely that anyone outside Australia could be successfully prosecuted for infringements of the regulations, carriers' agents in the jurisdiction will not be immune. In that case, they will certainly be looking to their principals for compensation or indemnity under the terms of their agency contract. Members are advised to make sure that their own contractual conditions will enable them to pass the responsibility back to the person or company ultimately to blame. Members should of course also ensure that weights are checked and properly declared for any containers that they stuff.