Dangerous goods reform on the way in Queensland

By: Brad Gardner

Proposed changes will restrict movement of dangerous goods through tunnels in Queensland.

Dangerous goods reform on the way in Queensland
Proposed reforms will make it an offence to transport dangerous goods through a tunnel in Queensland if the vehicle is fitted with a placard.


New regulations designed to prevent commercial quantities of dangerous goods from being transported through tunnels in Queensland look likely to be introduced. 

The Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee this week reported on its examination of the Transport and Other Legislation Amendment Bill and has recommended Queensland's parliament pass it.

The Bill will make it an offence to transport dangerous goods through a tunnel if the vehicle is fitted with a placard, which is a sign or label on the outside of the vehicle to warn large or commercial amounts of dangerous goods are onboard.

Enforcement officers will automatically assume any vehicle with a placard travelling through a tunnel will be carrying a commercial quantity of dangerous goods and will issue infringement notices.

"The Committee considered that the proposed new offence, which provides for a penalty and allowance of issuing infringement notices for non-compliance, is an appropriate deterrent to reduce the incidence of vehicles transporting dangerous goods in tunnels," the committee says in its report on the Bill.

The Bill stipulates that offenders will face fines or be jailed for one year if a contravention harms a person, property or the environment. Less serious breaches will attract smaller infringement notices for individuals and corporations.

Footage from surveillance cameras installed in tunnels will be used to detect offences.

The Bill applies a reverse onus of proof, whereby the owner of a vehicle accused of transporting a commercial quantity of dangerous goods through a tunnel will need to produce evidence to the contrary if they believe a breach did not occur. 

The committee supports the measure and notes in its report that the reverse onus of proof should not be too much a burden on operators if they need to demonstrate their innocence to Queensland's road authority.

"The Committee considers that it is reasonable to expect that an individual charged with carrying dangerous goods will not have to expend considerable time and money in order to satisfy the Department of Transport and Main Roads that they were not carrying dangerous goods as this will be recorded in their related transport documentation," its report says.

Transport and Main Roads told the committee the documentation includes details such as the type of dangerous goods being carried and the consignor's name and contact information.

It adds that the information could be supplied along with trip documents.

"This type of documentation could provide that the goods had already been delivered to their destination and that the vehicle was no longer carrying dangerous goods," the department says.

"It is considered that production of this information would incur minimal time and money as these are ordinary documents used and kept by transport companies."

During the committee's examination of the Bill, the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) supported a provision to allow a driver or an operator to prove the vehicle was not carrying a commercial quantity of dangerous goods through a tunnel even if it had a placard fitted.

The QTA's submission to the committee says there can be situations when vehicles are carrying small quantities of dangerous goods, such as when delivering a mixed load to retailers.

"In such a situation the driver may unwittingly fail to remove the placard once that part of the load requiring the placard has in fact been delivered to the consignee," the QTA says.

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