Review calls for penalty rises under national law

By: Rob McKay

Many upward revisions are to align fines with related ones as uniform approach and system is sought

Review calls for penalty rises under national law
Police and authorised officers will be able to save court time


The fraught process of harmonising trucking penalties has reached a watershed with the release of the National Transport Commission's (NTC) Heavy Vehicle National Law Penalties Framework Review Final Report.

The report was ordered due to the "very ambitious" timeframe for creating the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) being unable to account for the complexity of unifying enforcement outcomes.

However, it is unlikely to be the final word.

"The recommendations aim to improve internal consistency across HVNL penalties and to enable more offences to be dealt with via infringement notices," NTC chairman David Anderson says in the foreword.

"The Chain of Responsibility (COR) review is currently considering whether prescriptive or general duty obligations are most appropriate for the HVNL, which has the potential to impact on the HVNL penalty regime.

"Outcomes from the COR review may result in the need for future changes to the HVNL penalties framework."

"Consistent penalties for similar offences help make sure everyone in the industry understands what is unacceptable and dangerous and, importantly, the consequences of breaking the rules," NTC CEO Paul Retter says.

At its most basic level, the NTC report’s advice to transport ministers nationally recommends hefty fine increases and changes of approach across a range of issues.

But several items in the terms of reference were left unchanged and some NTC government advice and suggested fine levels ran afoul of the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials' Committee (TISOC).

For instance, the NTC had recommended that the penalty for driving while fatigued rise from $6,000 to $15,000, to align with a critical work and rest-hours offence, but there was not consensus among TISOC members for that.

For governments, the primary recommendation was the formation − alongside, or as part of, any COR amendment package − of a "penalties matrix" to ensure they are "set accurately".

This would consider the ‘gravity’ of offences – damage, safety, commercial advantage − and ‘culpability" − intent, recklessness, negligence and strict liability.

For those on the receiving end, maximum penalty rises recommended include:

  • using or allowing use of defected vehicles, $3,000 to $6,000, resulting in a $600 infringement penalty based on the 10 per cent infringement value
  • making a demand that may result in a driver exceeding the speed limit, $6,000 to $10,000, to align with that for causing a driver to drive while fatigued
  • failing to ensure a schedule will not cause fatigued driving, $6,000 to $10,000, to align with the penalty for failing to ensure it will not cause driver to exceed the speed limit
  • causing a driver to drive if particular requirements not complied with, $4,000 to $6,000, to align with a similar issue in another section
  • intelligent access information offences, $6,000 to $20,000, to align with penalties for disclosing protected information and for using protected information other than for an authorised use.
  • failing to return an identity card, $3,000 to $4,000, to align with penalties for most offences for failing to return documents.

Cost rises are to be reviewed every three years.

There was one reduction, though. It is for drivers failing to notify the record keeper if electronic work diary filled up, which is to be reduced from $6,000 to $3,000 to align with penalties for drivers failing to notify the Regulator of the same issue for written diaries and for a drivers failing to notify the Regulator if the electronic work diary filled up

Of those areas where consensus was missing, enabling several additional offences to be handled by infringement notices rather than only at court bore the brunt, though others got through.

These were offences containing a practicability test, COR liability for a driver’s contravention of a maximum work or minimum rest requirement and COR liability for a driver’s mass, dimension and loading requirement contravention.

Governments proposed attaching demerit points to several additional offences but most government and industry respondents agreed this warrants further through the penalties matrix.

The full report can be found here.

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