Company fine hike in SA speed crackdown push


Firms’ failure to ‘nominate’ offending driver to see $25,000-$50,000 fine in proposed South Eastern Freeway descent laws

Company fine hike in SA speed crackdown push
Stephen Mullighan says the company fine hikes aim to deter protection of unsafe drivers

 

Transport and logistics industry groups back the South Australian government’s push for hefty fine on South Eastern Freeway descent offenders.

A series of sometimes accidents this decade led to a suite of new rules the state government will now put to parliament.

"The massive increase in fines for body corporates is about stopping companies from protecting unsafe drivers," Transport and infrastructure minister Stephen Mullighan says.

The SA Road Transport Association (SARTA), which pushed publically for the speed limit reduction in 2014, and the South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) are on board.

SARTA

SARTA executive officer Steve Shearer notes 640,000 trucks come down the freeway a year "and the vast majority of truck drivers do so safely but it only takes one truck driver to make bad decisions and come down too fast and kill or injure innocent people.

"These tough new penalties will make that tiny recalcitrant minority think again and comply with the rules and come down the freeway safely.

"SARTA and the industry are committed to operating trucks safely and there is no room for those who aren’t.

"We fully support these new penalties which are aimed at the handful of drivers who flaunt the law and safety."

SAFC

SAFC executive officer Evan Knapp feels the same but says it will look carefully at the proposed legislation to ensure drivers avoid victimisation.

"A heavy vehicle, driven irresponsibly, is a public danger and an unacceptable breach of community safety standard," Knapp says.

‘‘Truck drivers are professionals, and generally among the best drivers on South Australian roads. The industry has taken huge steps to ensure any ‘bad apples’ are detected and removed from the industry.

"The SA Government’s proposal to introduce mandatory loss of licence for a first offence on the South Eastern Freeway down track will reinforce this industry effort.

"That said, these penalties will have a significant effect on the livelihoods of any driver caught.

"SAFC will be looking closely at the proposed legislation to ensure there are appropriate safeguards in place for instances where another party in the chain of responsibility may be at fault.

"Should poor maintenance be the cause of a runaway truck, penalties should apply to the trucking company and its officers under Chain of Responsibility provisions – not a driver whose life has also been put at risk."

Legal details

The government says the increase in penalties are the latest set of reforms to be introduced in response to coronial recommendations, some of which were questioned at the time, made after the death of truck driver James Venning and other serious and fatal crashes involving out-of-control trucks on the freeway.

Under the laws, heavy vehicle drivers who do not use low gear or observe the speed limit will automatically lose their licences for at least six months and be fined almost $1,000 for a first offence.

For a second offence, an automatic 12-month loss of licence will apply, with a three-year loss of licence for third and subsequent offences.

Courts will have the ability to impose more serious penalties including a 12-month licence disqualification for a first offence and three years for second or subsequent offences as well as imprisonment for up to two years.

The penalty for a company who fails to nominate a driver will increase from $300 to $25,000, while a court will be able to impose a maximum penalty of $50,000.

The new offences will only apply to heavy vehicles on a prescribed area of the South Eastern Freeway descent into Adelaide.

Safety cameras along the SE Freeway will receive a technology upgrade to enhance their heavy vehicle detection capabilities including the ability to identify heavy vehicle combination, length, number of axles and automatic number plate recognition.

The state government will also introduce a mandatory inspection scheme for high risk heavy vehicles.

The changes will require amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act and the Road Traffic Act and will be accompanied by an extensive education campaign.

"Using low gear and sticking to the 60kmh speed limit are fundamental to ensuring heavy vehicles can safely navigate the steep descent between Crafers and the Tollgate," Mullighan says.

"While the vast majority of heavy vehicle drivers on the freeway do the right thing, these penalties are designed to send a clear message to those who continue to risk the lives of other drivers by flouting these laws. Ignorance is not a defence."

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