NSW RMS tight lipped on weighbridge evasion fines


The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is considering its position as the State Government faces the possibility of paying back weighbridge evasion fines. <br /><br /> Doubt has been cast over signage for checking stations and the charges used to prosecute drivers who avoid them after Magistrate Alan Railton last week dismissed with costs one fine and refused a guilty plea in a second case. The RMS, formerly the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), is tight-lipped about its intentions.

By Rob McKay | November 8, 2011

 

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) is considering its position as the State Government faces the possibility of paying back weighbridge evasion fines.

Doubt has again been cast over signage for checking stations and the framing of charges used to prosecute drivers who avoid them after Magistrate Alan Railton last week dismissed with costs one fine and refused a guilty plea in a second case.

The RMS, formerly the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), is tight-lipped about its intentions.

"Roads and Maritime Services cannot comment on a matter which may be before the courts," a spokesman says.

"Road transport law provides RMS with the legal authority to regulate heavy vehicles.

"Various rules enable heavy vehicles to be directed to heavy vehicle checking stations for compliance purposes.

"RMS will consider any decision concerning checking station signs and if any appeal is warranted."

Port Macquarie tool-making business owner Richard Mainey saw his $2200 fine dismissed and was awarded $1980 legal costs at Gosford Local Court last Thursday.

Mainey’s lawyer, David Spencer, says the magistrate accepted that the signage had been worded in error and the charges wrongly framed.

Spencer had raised the then RTA’s loss last November 29 of a NSW Supreme Court appeal of two cases, Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW v Birchfield and Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW v Dunlop, relating to incidences at the Marulan Heavy Vehicle Checking Station in October and November 2009.

Magistrate Geraldine Beattie at the Goulburn Local Court had dismissed the charges against the drivers on June 18 last year.

The appeal transcript sates that "11 other similar matters involving other truck drivers" had been dealt with on that day.

At Marulan, the signage
had said "Heavy Vehicle Checking Station 300m" and "Vehicles over 8t GVM MUST ENTER".

The judgement by Justice David Davies points out that Rule 105 of the Road Rules provides: "If the driver of a truck drives past a 'trucks must enter' sign, the driver must enter the area indicated by the information on or with the sign. Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units."

"There was no such sign erected at any point prior to the Marulan Heavy Vehicle Checking Station," the judge had said, while explaining that there was an important difference in the rules
between trucks, buses and other vehicles.

"The Magistrate took the view that the signs in fact erected did not even substantially comply with the sign identified in r 105."

The RTA’s lawyers had attempted to argue that, despite the sign not conforming to the rules, the drivers had been obliged to comply with the signage because it had amounted to an "instrument", or document, under the Instrument Act 1987.

But the judge was very plain on the matter, saying: "A motorist should be in the position of being assumed to know the Road Rules.

"Such a motorist should not be in the position of having to decide whether a non-authorised sign is required to be complied with on the basis that the motorist falls within the class authorised to be directed."

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