This simple task could save you from unnecessary demerit points and thousands in fines.
This simple task could save you from unnecessary demerit points and thousands in fines.

This could save you unnecessary fines

Interstate drivers passing through New South Wales should take a moment to check their number plates. This simple task could save you from unnecessary demerit points and thousands in fines.

Most drivers know that you can be fined for having obscured number plates. But, did you know that in NSW you could be charged with driving an unregistered truck if your number plates aren't displayed in perfect compliance with the regulations?

The problem arises because of a quirk in the NSW registration laws. The law says that any vehicle driven in NSW needs to be registered in NSW, unless it falls within certain exemptions. One of those exemptions is for vehicles that are registered in another State and are only in NSW temporarily. To qualify for the exemption you need to meet certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the number plates need to be displayed in compliance with the laws of the vehicle's home state.

Requiring number plates to be displayed clearly seems fair enough. But what a lot of people don't realise is the laws in most States are very detailed about exactly how plates need to be displayed. The requirements include things like how high the number plates are, and the distance and specific angles that they must be visible from. It's not hard to display your plates incorrectly without realising. Even a minor breach of the number plate requirements means that the exemption from being registered is stripped away. As a result, the truck is treated as being unregistered in NSW.

The result is that interstate drivers are treated more harshly simply because their truck is registered in another State.

If a truck registered in NSW is detected with incorrectly displayed number plates, the fine is $686 and three demerit points. For an interstate driver charged with 'driving an unregistered vehicle' the fine is more than doubled - $1,449 and four demerit points.

One of the biggest problems with this law is that drivers are often completely unaware that there's any issue with their plates until after they start receiving fines. I have seen examples where a truck has been driven through NSW multiple times, and even inspected by RMS officers, without any issue being identified. Until one day someone notices that the plates aren't quite in the right position. Instead of issuing a warning, the driver is fined for being unregistered. Sometimes, the driver receives multiple fines at the same time, before they've had a chance to correct the plates.

It's a problem that needs to be reviewed by the law makers. If the States are serious about moving towards a unified system of laws across borders, then drivers shouldn't be treated differently because of where their truck is registered.

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