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Higher fines, more power for RTA inspectors

Higher fines and more power for inspectors to deal with operators dodging checking stations

By Brad Gardner | December 3, 2009

The New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has been given new powers to deal with drivers dodging checking stations, while heaviver penalties have been introduced for those who fail to provide driving records.

The Road Transport (General) Amendment (Penalty Notices Offences) Regulation passed on November 30 alters previous enforcement policy by giving the RTA the choice between issuing infringement notices or court orders to drivers who avoid or ignore directions to enter checking stations.

Previously, the RTA was limited to sending each case before a magistrate.

A spokesperson for the RTA says the penalty for not producing records has been set at $647 and is comparable to a “substantial risk” penalty under fatigue management regulations.

“The increased penalty serves as a deterrent to dissuade operators from refusing to provide driving records in an attempt to conceal more serious offences that may potentially be exposed in those records,” the spokesperson says.

In a letter to the Transport Operations Liaison Group, RTA General Manager of Compliance and Freight Strategy Philip Halton says the new policy governing heavy vehicle checking stations is simpler and fairer because drivers will not be forced to go before a magistrate each time an offence occurs.

“By adjusting the laws regarding avoidance and fail to enter offences, the RTA will now have a capacity to deal with first-time or low significance offenders by means of a PIN [penalty infringement notice],” he writes.

“In these circumstances, the issue of a PIN is a more appropriate and proportionate means of taking action and allows for immediate resolution.”

He also says the decision to increase fines for drivers and companies failing to provide records will help promote greater compliance.

“This increased penalty will principally be of use in the operation of the safe-T-Cam system and provides a greater regulatory deterrent to those operators who believe there may be some benefit in withholding legally required information,” Halton says.

In his letter, Halton says the expansion of the RTA’s enforcement powers does not mean there have been any changes to the law.

“This amendment does not create new offences or impose additional requirements for heavy vehicle drivers; it simply adds a new law enforcement tool that can be used for these offences,” he says.

The changes to enforcement policy follow the announcement by the NSW Government that drivers hit with demerit points for fatigue management offences would have them returned.

As part of the policy, demerit points for serious fatigue offences will not be introduced until January 1 next year.

Assistant Transport Minister David Borger says drivers and operators should use the month-long reprieve to make sure they understand their obligations under fatigue management.

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