The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) sets out the obligations for operators, drivers, consignors and consignees about the handling of freight containers and the requirements for container weight declarations (CWD).
What is a freight container?
A freight container is a re-usable container that is designed for the transport of goods by one or more modes of transport.
Freight containers are defined in Australian Standard AS 3711.1:2000, Freight containers – Classification dimensions and ratings.
What is a CWD and what does it look like?
A CWD is a written declaration of the weight of a container and its contents. It may be either in hard copy or electronic form, or a placard attached to the freight container. It may consist of one or more documents in different formats – for example, documents may be in the form of a sheet of paper, an email, on an electronic device, or in otherwise electronic form – but in any case, it must be able to be produced in its entirety, to an authorised officer, upon request.
What information must it include?
Although there is no specific form for a CWD, it must include the following information:
- weight of the container including its contents
- container number and other details necessary to identify the container
- name and residential address or business name and address in Australia of the responsible entity for the freight container
- date of declaration.
When is a CWD required?
A complying CWD is required when transporting a consigned freight container on a road using a heavy vehicle. The requirement for a complying CWD is not dependent on whether the freight container is empty or loaded.
A complying container weight declaration is not required for a freight container that has been modified so it is no longer fit for use in multi-modal transport or its primary use would no longer be for the transport of freight (e.g. modified for use as a storage shed, portable office, portable plant equipment, etc.).
Other CWD requirements
The responsible entity for a freight container must ensure an operator or driver of a heavy vehicle does not transport the container by road using the vehicle without a complying CWD.
The responsible entity for the freight container must also ensure the CWD for the container that is given to an operator of the heavy vehicle is not false or misleading.
Responsible entity, for a freight container, means—
- the person who, in Australia, consigned the container for road transport using a heavy vehicle; or
- if there is no person as described in paragraph (a)—the person who, in Australia, for a consignor, arranged for the container's road transport using a heavy vehicle; or
- if there is no person as described in paragraph (a) or (b)—the person who, in Australia, physically offered the container for road transport using a heavy vehicle.
The consignor (importer, freight forwarder, shipping agent etc.) of a freight container must ensure an operator or driver of a heavy vehicle does not transport the freight container by road using the vehicle without a complying CWD for the container. For imported containers, the consignor is the person who imports the container into Australia.
An operator of a heavy vehicle must ensure the vehicle’s driver does not transport the freight container by road using the vehicle without a complying CWD for the freight container.
If another carrier transports the container further, the operator must ensure the freight container is not given to the carrier unless the carrier has been provided with a complying CWD or the information contained in the Complying CWD.
An operator must also ensure that a container weight declaration provided to a driver is not false or misleading.
A driver must not drive a vehicle loaded with a freight container unless they have a complying CWD for the container. While on the road, drivers must keep a copy of the CWD in or about the vehicle at all times.
Freight containers consigned for import or export by sea
Freight containers for transport by sea must also meet the requirements of the Navigation Act 2012, including Marine Order 42. Transport documentation created for that purpose, such as a Pre-Receival Advice (PRA), may be used as a complying CWD (or part thereof) so long as it includes the information mentioned above, and is available for inspection by an Authorised Officer. (A PRA that doesn't contain all the necessary information could be used in conjunction with another document or documents containing the missing details).
Please note: The responsible entity as defined under the HVNL may differ from the shipper as defined by the International Maritime Organization (guidance document) and as such this information may need to be listed separately on the PRA or other relevant documentation. As Marine Order 42 requires 'verified gross mass' of containers, parties are encouraged to perform best practice by providing accurate masses on relevant CWDs.