The changes to performance standards demonstrated above significantly reduce the grounds for prosecution, both before and after a load restraint incident.

LOADSAFE DISCUSSION PAPER 1

 

Ref:  Load Restraint Guide (Third Edition) and National Heavy Vehicle Law

The contents of this document are provided as complementary information to the Public, Industry and Government.
Loadsafe Australia has no vested or conflict of interest in relation to the NTC, National Heavy Vehicle Regulator or other stakeholders. 

Our intention is to continue to advocate for Load Restraint Standards and Guidance that allow Australia to remain a world-leader in the safe restraint of loads on heavy vehicles.

In early 2018, the National Transport Commission (NTC) published the 3rd Edition Load Restraint Guide (LRG) with new Loading Performance Standards (see below) which represent a fundamental change to the way load restraint on heavy vehicles is managed and regulated in Australia.

The Performance Standards that were presented for public comment in the Draft 3rd Ed. (see below) were very similar to the existing 2nd Ed. Performance Standards (see below). However, the Loading Performance Standards in their present form are fundamentally different from the Draft 3rd Ed. Performance Standards.  This version was never released for public comment or subjected to independent Subject Matter Expert peer review.

Throughout this process, the NTC made repeated assurances to the public, government and industry that the load restraint Performance Standards would not change.

The 2nd Ed. Performance Standards and Draft 3rd Ed. Performance Standards were based on the strength of the load restraint system (“Strength Standards”) and both allowed limited load movement.

The new 3rd Ed. Loading Performance Standards dismiss strength-based restraint and instead, simply mandate no load movement. They are referred to in this document as “Movement Standards”.

Although both the 2nd Ed. and 3rd Ed. performance standards include reference to the acceleration parameters of 0.8g, 0.5g, 0.5g and 0.2g, this does not render them equal or “unchanged”. Both editions of the performance standards may appear similar, however numerous changes to the written text make them fundamentally different in their requirements. This document will unpack and compare these performance standards and highlight the increased risk, adverse safety and enforcement implications of these changes.

The NTC has changed the previously published Performance Standards without identifying any reason, specific safety benefit to the community, or any cost benefit to Industry.  There has been no Regulatory Impact Statement, any guidance provided for interpretation of the changes or any disclosure of the possible consequences.

The CHANGE from “Strength” to “Movement” Standards

 

The 3nd Edition Movement Standards state that:

 

“The load restraint system must prevent the load from moving in relation to the heavy vehicle (other than movement allowed under (2)) if the loaded vehicle were subjected to”….. (a changed combination of accelerations 0.8g, 0.5g, 0.5g and 0.2g)

 

The statement (other than movement allowed under (2)) means that a load restraint system need only:

(a) prevent the load from dislodging from the vehicle; and

(b) prevent adverse effects on vehicle stability and weight distribution.

 

whereas the 2nd Edition Strength Standards state that:

 

“The load restraint system must be capable of withstanding the forces that would result if the loaded vehicle were subjected to”….
(a combination of accelerations 0.8g, 0.5g, 0.5g and 0.2g)

 

In order to “withstand the forces” the load restraint system, which comprises load restraint structures and components (headboards, gates, chains, straps, etc), must meet minimum strength standards.

 

Diligent engineers use relevant design Standards (which include safety factors) for designing and certifying load restraint procedures, structures and equipment.

 

Strength Standards also form the basis of the European and North American load restraint standards and regulators worldwide use these to conduct pro-active on-road enforcement of unsafe loads.

 

With the removal of Strength Standards, the Loading Performance Standards therefore state a duty only to limit load movement to stated levels, irrespective of strength limits being exceeded.

 

It is therefore now permissible for any component of a load restraint system to be overloaded and bend, stretch, tear etc., provided that the above requirements (a) and (b) are met. The omission of Strength Standards removes the requirement for load restraint structures and equipment to operate within previously required design parameters, which include safety factors.

 

The removal of Strength Standards substantially increases risk by enabling the legal use of lower safety margins for load restraint on heavy vehicles.

A Practical Example:

If a part of the load on a large rigid truck moved forward under heavy braking in a similar manner to that shown with the prime-mover in Figure 1 below, could the operator be prosecuted under National Heavy Vehicle Law using the current new Loading Performance Standards?

Fig. 1        Allowable Load Movement (3rd Ed. Loading Performance Standards)

 

To ensure a successful prosecution, enforcement authorities determine whether a load restraint system complies with the Loading Performance Standards.

New Loading Performance Standards
 the CHANGES and the CONFLICT

The CONFLICT between the Loading Performance Standards

and all Load Restraint Guides (Editions 1, 2 & 3)

The 3rd Ed. Load Restraint Guide contains practical examples of safe loading practices for the Transport Industry. It is reasonable to assume that if these are followed correctly, a load restraint system will comply with the Loading Performance Standards.

Despite minor changes in the wording, tables and diagrams, the technical content presented in the 3rd Ed. LRG is fundamentally the same as in the 2nd Ed. LRG because they both demonstrate strength-based load restraint requirements.

This presents a conflict because the new Loading Performance Standards are now based on movement, not strength.

As the 3rd Edition Load Restraint Guide is not compatible with the current Loading Performance Standards, its contents are now rendered as conflicting guidance material only.

For example, the 3rd Ed. LRG section "Know Your Legal Obligations" contains incorrect guidance and does not reference the relevant regulations.  The following is just one example of incorrect guidance in this section:

“The law sets out Performance Standards for load restraint

 

The Performance Standards set out the minimum amount of force a restraint system must be able to withstand in each direction. For heavy vehicles, these forces are:..”  (Page 8, 3rd Ed. Load Restraint Guide).

 

The new Loading Performance Standards contain no reference to “force” and do not "set out the minimum amount of force... " as stated. The accelerations referred to in the Loading Performance Standards are applied to the vehicle, not the load.

Negative Consequences of the Loading Performance Standards

For the Loading Performance Standards to be considered part of National Heavy Vehicle Law, their implementation can have the following negative consequences for the Public, Industry and Government:

  1. Reduced heavy vehicle safety;

  2. More on-going costs for Industry;

  3. Invalidation of previous Load Restraint Procedures developed and certified for Industry under 2nd Ed. Performance Standards and cost of re-certification;

  4. More scope for legal challenge to strength-based load restraint prosecutions that occurred after January 2018 and the inevitable refund of fines;

  5. Reversion back to pre-1994 re-active enforcement;

  6. More confusion for Industry and Enforcement with varying interpretations of Loading Performance Standards in load restraint procedures, certifications and compliance restraint approval programs.

Implications for Enforcement

There are two methods of load restraint enforcement, pro-active and re-active. Pro-active enforcement includes measures to identify load restraint systems that are non-compliant with the Performance Standards. Re-active enforcement occurs in response to load restraint incidents.

 

The first Australian Load Restraint Guide and Performance Standards were introduced in 1994.  They replaced the existing inadequate “movement - based” regulations.  This was because successful prosecution could only be guaranteed after a load had dislodged from a vehicle.

 

Since the new strength-based Performance Standards were introduced in 1994,
pro-active law enforcement of heavy vehicle load restraint compliance has been possible, using various methods based on strength parameters.  

 

The current lack of correlation between content in the 3rd Ed. Load Restraint Guide and the requirements of the Loading Performance Standards calls into question current pro-active enforcement strategies that rely heavily on the contents of the Load Restraint Guide.

Recommendations

  1. The Loading Performance Standards should be removed.

  2. The Loading Performance Standards should not be “patched up” without independent Industry review.

  3. The 2nd Ed. Performance Standards should be reinstated immediately.

  4. A project should be initiated to formally review the 2nd Ed. Performance Standards, to enhance, not to replace them, before they are introduced directly into National Heavy Vehicle Law.

 

In Summary

As explained in this document, movement-based standards are not only inappropriate, but they also limit the scope of pro-active enforcement, which in turn would more likely place the community at significant increased safety risk.

 

It is critically important that Industry, Regulators, Manufacturers, Technical and Legal Professionals all are provided with clear unambiguous advice and standards for load restraint on road vehicles as soon as possible. 

The 3rd Edition LOADING PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

 

3rd Edition LOAD RESTRAINT GUIDE Page 4

Read More

DRAFT 3rd Edition LRG PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

 

Draft 3rd Edition LOAD RESTRAINT GUIDE Page 224

The 2nd Edition LRG PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

 

2nd Edition LOAD RESTRAINT GUIDE Page 186

KNOW YOUR LEGAL OBLIGATIONS

 

3rd Edition LOAD RESTRAINT GUIDE Page 8