Penalties to Hit Harder
Recent changes to transport laws now hold more individuals and companies in the transport chain accountable for breaches.
The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) commenced in 2014 and applies in all States of Australia except Western Australia. The legislation applies to all vehicles that have a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) or ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) of more than 4.5 tonnes.
The HVNL makes complying with transport laws the responsibility of everyone in the transport chain, not just drivers and operators. This approach recognises that actions, inactions and demands made by off-the-road parties play a role in road safety.
Under the chain of responsibility provisions of the HVNL, consignors, packers, loaders, schedulers and consignees must all take reasonable steps to prevent breaches of laws in relation to mass, dimension, loading, speed and fatigue. As well, an ‘executive officer’ of any party in the chain can be responsible for a breach of the law by another party if they knowingly authorised or permitted the conduct or if they knew or ought reasonably to have known that there was a substantial risk that an offence would be committed.
The potential penalties under the legislation are significant. For example, the maximum penalty for a single offence involving a critical breach of the fatigue regulations is $15,000 for an individual and a five times multiplier (making the penalty $75,000) can be applied if the offender is a corporation. The offence of tampering with a speed limiter attracts a penalty of $10,000. Similar fines apply for offences such as severe overloading or speeding. The law also provides for heavy penalties to be imposed on parties who enter into contracts that encourage or provide an incentive for any party in the chain of responsibility to speed.
In addition to fines and penalties, the legislation gives the courts power to impose penalties that reflect the commercial benefits that an offender has derived from offences. Persistent offenders can also be subject to intervention orders and prohibition orders banning them from being involved with the transport industry for up to one year.