'Pushback' from states over switch to national fines


Heavy vehicle fines are shaping as a potential stumbling block to the creation of national regulations

'Pushback' from states over switch to national fines
'Pushback' from states over switch to national system for fines

By Brad Gardner | January 20, 2012

Heavy vehicle fines are shaping as a potential stumbling block to the creation of national regulations, with two states refusing to play ball.

Work is currently underway on standardising thousands of varying infringements to ensure drivers receive the same penalty regardless of where an offence occurs once national regulations begin on January 1, 2013.

Queensland’s system of penalty numbers has been used in the bill that will enact the regulations.

However, a project director with the National Transport Commission (NTC), George Konstandakos, who is involved in the work on overhauling the penalty system, says "we’ve got pushback from Victoria and NSW" on using Queensland's penalty numbers.

"I know for a fact Victoria and NSW aren’t prepared to use those penalty numbers. They have their own but we’re going through a process of trying to consolidate them and make them consistent," he says.

Konstandakos says fines are generally higher in Victoria and NSW than other jurisdictions, meaning both states stand to lose revenue if they adopt Queensland’s system.

"Emission fines in NSW are much, much higher than they are around the country because of the particular policy around environmental standards," he says.

Konstandakos also points to a 2010 policy change in NSW targeting overheight trucks as another sticking point. Then Roads Minister David Borger announced a massive increase in on-the-spot fines for drivers caught entering tunnels in a vehicle exceeding height restrictions.

The move was aimed at curbing a rise in the number of incidents involving overheight vehicles hitting bridges, with the fine going from $141 and no demerit points to $1776 and six demerit points.

A discussion paper on fines is currently circulating among government departments for feedback. Konstandakos says a public document will be released in February.

While charges in some jurisdictions may increase under a standardised system, Konstandakos believes most operators will see a decline in the value of infringements.

"They mainly come down [but in] some jurisdictions they may go up," he says.

"Today you could travel across the country and get a different value fine for the same offence so what we’re looking at is standardising the infringement numbers and penalties under the national heavy vehicle law so there’s consistency around the country."

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Project Director, Richard Hancock, says training and education material will need to be provided to transport inspectors and police officers if the penalty system changes.

Hancock is also hopeful of including a measure to allow drivers and operators to alert the regulator if they believe they have been fined for an invalid reason.

"However, they still need to work their way through the infringement notice and court processes in each of the states and territories. That’s not changing," he says.

Hancock says there will be further discussions with the relevant government departments and police agencies between now and March to try and get a deal over the line.

"That’s the intent we have – uniform penalties across Australia as part of the national regulator," he says.

The bill to create national heavy vehicle regulations entered Queensland’s parliament last year. Any further changes before January 1, 2013 will be dealt with under an amendment package to be legislated in May this year.

Konstandakos says the trucking industry will get a clearer picture of the work going on when the public discussion paper is unveiled next month. But he says unless the states reach an agreement on fines, come 2013, "it will be the status quo as it is now".

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