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No fine in Western Australian loose straw case

Hay carter not guilty of loading breach after straw blows off truck


Straw blowing off a truckload of hay does not constitute a breach of Western Australia’s Road Traffic (Vehicles) Act 2012, according to a recent court decision.

Magistrate Andrew Maughan found a WA company was not guilty of the mass, dimension and loading breach he was fined for May last year, after the fine was appealed to the Armadale Magistrates Court.

Magistrate Maughan found the driver had complied with the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) Load Restraint Guide 2004 and as such, there was no case to answer.

The defence case was funded in part by the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA (LRTAWA) – which says it has been concerned about what it said was a trend among police towards issuing infringements for loose straw blowing off loads of hay.

LRTAWA vice president Darren Power tells ATN that the association agreed to provide legal assistance to have the matter dealt with in court, saying the decision would help its members be more certain about compliance requirements.

Power says a conviction in the case would have had massive implications right across rural WA and stop hay and straw transport immediately until a solution was found.

“For anyone who has had anything to do with hay, it is fairly inevitable within the first few kilometres of travel,” he says.

“We thought it was a really important issue – and it has taken a while, but we are pleased it has made its way through the courts and we got the result we expected.”

According to the Load Restraint Guide 2004, bales can be carried on open vehicles – but must be restrained by a combination of tie-down lashings and containment by front and rear loading racks.

The decision comes after the NTC released its Load Restraint Guide 2018 earlier this year following a review with drivers, operators and other participants.

The revised guide provides 12 case studies for load restraints, describing different types of load, vehicle and equipment, with the aim of giving operators a better understanding of the restraints they will need in different cases.

According to the revised guide, tie-downs should be used together with blocking or unitising to restrain low-friction loads when containment is not possible.

Comment has been sought from the defence lawyer in the case.

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