Heavy Vehicle National Law

The Heavy Vehicle National Law is a national law governing heavy vehicles which have a gross vehicle mass or aggregate trailer mass of more than 4.5 tonnes. Examples of heavy vehicles governed by the Heavy Vehicle National Law are semi-trailers, b-doubles, freight trucks, road trains, buses, livestock and agricultural vehicles as well as mobile cranes and other special purpose vehicles. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator is Australia’s regulator for heavy vehicles and administer legislation and regulations pertaining to heavy vehicles across most of Australia.

What is the Heavy Vehicle National Law?

The Heavy Vehicle National Law commenced on 10 February 2014 with NSW, the ACT, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria all passing similar laws adopting the Heavy Vehicle National Law. At present, the Heavy Vehicle National Law is not enacted in Western Australia or the Northern Territory with Western Australia and the Northern Territory having their own legislation and regulations, however any heavy vehicles from Western Australia and the Northern Territory must comply with the Heavy Vehicle National Law and the respective regulations as soon as they cross into a state or territory governed by the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

The Heavy Vehicle National Law legislates many aspects of heavy vehicles including weights, dimensions, loads, fatigue, registration as well as many other safety requirements. There are significant penalties which can apply to breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

What are some examples of offences under the Heavy Vehicle National Law?

There are many different types of offences contained within the Heavy Vehicle National Law. Some common examples of offences under this law are:

  1. Vehicles must comply with mass requirements and must not be overloaded and exceed their specified weights. Offences in this category are separated into minor, substantial and severe categories with the maximum penalties increasing depending on the nature and severity of the breach.
  2. Vehicles must comply with dimension requirements and must not exceed the stipulated dimensions of the vehicle, trailer and any cargo or materials carried by the heavy vehicle. Offences in this category are separated into minor, substantial and severe categories with the maximum penalties increasing depending on the nature and severity of the breach.
  3. Vehicles must comply with loading requirements relating to the securing and positioning of loads on a heavy vehicle or component of a heavy vehicles, such as a trailer. Offences in this category are separated into minor, substantial and severe categories with the maximum penalties increasing depending on the nature and severity of the breach.
  4. Drivers must not operate a heavy vehicle whilst suffering from fatigue. There are strict laws in place, including requirements to keep accurate records in the form of logbooks, or electronic logbooks as well as limits on the number of hours a driver can operate a heavy vehicle in any 24-hour period as well as requirements for rest breaks. Significant penalties including fines as well as demerit points exist for fatigue and logbook offences which are separated into minor, substantial and severe categories with the maximum penalties increasing depending on the nature and severity of the breach.

I have been issued with an infringement notice under the Heavy Vehicle National Law. What do I do?

Offences under the Heavy Vehicle National Law can have serious consequences for heavy vehicle drivers as well as heavy vehicle operators. Depending on the circumstances, there may be exemptions or defences which may apply to an offence which will need to be carefully examined by an experienced criminal and traffic defence lawyer. Maximum penalties pertaining to breaches of the Heavy Vehicle National Law are significant, and can involve fines of thousands, tens of thousands, and in some cases even hundreds of thousands of dollars for companies. For drivers, there are additional repercussions of demerit points. Contraventions of the Heavy Vehicle National Law can result in other orders such as a Supervisory Intervention Order, prohibition orders, injunctions as well as the cancellation or suspension of vehicle registrations.

What is a Supervisory Intervention Order?

In addition to any penalty imposed by a court, the Prosecution may make a Supervisory Intervention Order requiring the offender, at their own expense and for a period not exceeding one year to do one or more of the following:

  1. Make orders that the court considers will improve a person’s compliance with the Heavy Vehicle National Law such as:
    • Appointing staff to, or removing staff from, particular positions;
    • Training and supervising staff;
    • Obtaining expert advice about maintaining compliance with the Heavy Vehicle National laws and regulations;
    • Installing equipment for monitoring or managing compliance with laws and regulations such as, for example, intelligent transport system equipment;
    • implementing practices, systems or procedures for monitoring or ensuring compliance with heavy vehicle laws and regulations.
  2. Implement stated practices, systems or procedures for monitoring or ensuring compliance with heavy vehicle laws and regulations subject to the direction of the Regulator or a person nominated by the Regulator;
  3. Give compliance reports about the convicted person to the Regulator or the court (or both), in a stated way and for stated periods;
  4. Appoint a person to have the following responsibilities:
    • help the convicted person to improve the convicted person’s compliance with this law or stated aspects of this law;
    • monitor the convicted person’s compliance with this law or stated aspects of this law and with the order;
    • give compliance reports about the convicted person to the Regulator or the court (or both), in a stated way and for stated periods.

Can you avoid prosecution for a Heavy Vehicle National Law matter?

In some circumstances, the Heavy Vehicle National Law Regulator, as an alternative to prosecution, may accept an enforceable undertaking given by the person who is alleged to have committed the contravention. There are a number of factors to be considered when determining whether an enforceable undertaking will be accepted by the Regulator in lieu of initiating a prosecution before the courts such as addressing what rectifications have been made with an emphasis on promoting a strong safety outcome and community benefit by demonstrating changes to procedures, training and even engaging in social media campaigns admitting fault and regret for the offending conduct. Given the extensive criteria involved in persuading the Regulator to accept an undertaking, careful consideration needs to be given to not only addressing the criteria contained within the policy guideline but also to ensure that the proposed undertakings are reasonable and capable of being carried out.

How can my lawyer help in my Heavy Vehicle National Law matter?

It is important to seek legal advice immediately upon receiving a penalty notice, Court Attendance Notice or any other application under the Heavy Vehicle National Law. Your lawyer will be able to identify whether any proceeding or charge has been properly initiated and can advise you of any applicable defences or approaches to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Should it be the case that a prosecution has been initiated and the matter go to court, your lawyer can help with preparing your matter and presenting evidence and submissions on your behalf to try and obtain the best outcome for you in the circumstances.

Why Choose Australian Lawyers and Advocates?

If you are facing a Heavy Vehicle National Law matter, our expert defence criminal and traffic lawyers in Sydney can help. We will carefully consider your case and provide expert advice on your options.

Our team of expert criminal and traffic defence lawyers in Sydney have a proven track record of securing successful outcomes for our clients in criminal law matters. Our results speak for themselves.

If you require expert representation in a criminal or traffic law matter, don’t delay. Contact our expert criminal defence lawyers in Sydney today.

The content contained within this guide is expressed as a general guide as to this area of law and is not intended to contain legal advice specific to an individual’s case. If you, or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offence and requires legal advice, do not hesitate to contact Australian Lawyers and Advocates to discuss any criminal law or traffic law matters further.

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