LETTER OF THE LAW: Truckies in Queensland are facing higher court imposed fines under the new law.
LETTER OF THE LAW: Truckies in Queensland are facing higher court imposed fines under the new law. Carly Morrissey

National system will boost fines

TRUCK drivers are staring down the barrel of increases to court-imposed fines, some up to 50% more, under the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

Passed in Queensland Parliament on February 14, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) Amendment Bill saw some 174 court-imposed penalties increase, while 149 will decrease compared to existing Queensland fines.

This comes as all the states and territories except Western Australia are set to pass the bill, which will see penalties uniform throughout Australia from July 1.

The Department of Transport tabled a penalty level comparison during a parliamentary hearing on the Amendment Bill.

It showed that 80 court-imposed penalties would increase more than 50% under the new law, and 57 more than 30%, but less than 50%.

Compared to 110 penalties that would decrease by up to 10%, only 16 penalties will decrease by more than 50%.

When it came to infringements, there were more decreasing (132) than increasing (39).

Under the new law roadside infringement notices have been set at 10% of the of the maximum court-imposed penalty.

Of the 323 offences and penalties under the HVNL, 171 attract infringement penalties. These include 28 penalties that do not currently attract an infringement and the abolition of 39 offences that are currently infringeable. There are 10 new offences in the HVNL.

Demerit points and infringements will still be managed under current regimes in each state when the regulator kicks in. "For mass, loading and dimension (access) offences, penalties remain fairly consistent and comparable," the document said.

"For fatigue-related offences, the majority of court-imposed maximum penalties will increase; however, the corresponding infringement notice penalty will decrease. For minor or administrative matters such as how and when information is recorded in a work diary, penalties are substantially lower."

The example given was recording time in a work diary according to the time zone in the place where the driver's base was, and not the time zone in the place where the driver is; this sort of penalty would have seen a $660 infringement, but under the new law it will be only $150.

"Serious fatigue offences, such as severe and critical breaches of work and rest hours will attract significantly higher penalties under the HVNL."

Offences of severe and critical breaches for drivers, as well as parties in the chain of responsibility, will increase from $4950 and $6600 to a court-imposed maximum penalty of $10,000 and $15,000.

"While the increase is substantial, it does reflect the serious road safety risks and prevalence of fatigue as a contributing factor in heavy vehicle fatal road crashes."

The document said severe and critical offences will be handled in court and no infringement penalties have been set for those types of offences.

Heavy vehicle drivers that exceed work and rest hours under fatigue management requirement will see an increase.

"The higher penalties reflect the serious consequences of driver fatigue and the significant contribution fatigue makes to serious and fatal incidents occurring on our roads.

"Conversely, penalties for minor, administrative type offences, such as incorrectly recording information in a driver's work diary, have been significantly reduced"

The document said the vast majority of offences would be dealt with by issuing an infringement notice.

NEW fines under the HVNL include:

  • Driver must now carry proof of compliance with third party insurance legistlation, there was no previous requirement under Queensland law, the infringment notice will cost you $300, however if you take the matter to court the maximum penalty is $3000.
  • It is now an offence to tamper with an emission control system fitted to a heavy vehicle, and the maximum court imposed penalty is $10,000.
  • It was also an offence to not have a properly operating emission control system under the old laws but the maximum court imposed penalty has gone up from $2,200 to $3000 and the infringement to $300 from $220.
  • If you haven't got a warning sign for the rear projction of a load you will now face an infringment of $300 instead of $73.33.
  • Employers could face a $20,000 fine in court if a driver exceeds mass.
  • When it comes to speed if an employer or prime contractor does not ensure it's practices won't cause a driver to speed including scheduling, loading arrangments, terms of consigment they can be fined a maximum of $10,000 in court compared to $8,800 previously.
  • Under new fatigue laws if anyone in the chain or responsibility does not prevent a driver from taking the wheel while fatigued it could cost $10,000 in court - up from $6600.
  • Failing to make sure a consignment or loading arrangemment or making a demand does not result in driving whilst fatigued can cost up to $10,000.
  • Severe and critical breaches of hours will see maximum court imposed fines of $10,000 and $15,000, while sustantial breaches will see an on the spot fine rise from $330 to $600.
  • False or misleading entries, keeping two work diaries, defacing or changing work records, making entries in someone else's work records, destroying work records and tampering with an approved electronic recording system will all see drivers straight to court, the maximum penalty is $10,000 up from a previous $6600.
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