On 1 May 2019, legislation introduced new penalties for drivers of all trucks and buses identified as driving in excess of the posted speed limit on the down track of the South Eastern Freeway into Adelaide.

The legislation amendments to the Road Traffic Act, 1961, Motor Vehicles Act, 1959 and supplementary regulations were introduced as a direct result of coronial inquest findings regarding serious accidents in 2010 and 2014. These incidents both involved out of control heavy vehicles, causing the tragic loss of lives and serious injuries on the South Eastern Freeway.

What Are The Legislative Changes?

The legislative changes applies to all trucks and buses travelling on the South Eastern Freeway; they are required to travel in the left hand lane at or below 60 kph.

A truck is defined as a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle mass of more than 4.5 tonne, except a bus, tram or tractor. Section 45C of the Road Traffic Act 1961 stipulated that trucks (vehicle in excess of 4.5 tonne) or buses (described under the Australian Road Rules as a motor vehicle built mainly to carry people but seats over 12 adults (including the driver)) dictate that the following penalties applied for vehicles not engaged in low gear or exceeding the relevant speed limit by 10 kph, as follows:

  • An expiation fee of $1,036.00 plus 6 demerit points;
  • Mandatory 6-month licence disqualification for a first offence;
  • 12-month licence disqualification for a second offence;
  • A 3-year licence disqualification for subsequent offences.

This extended to when a court convicts a person of a first offence:

  • Maximum of $5,000.00 fine plus 6 demerit points and a licence disqualification of no less than 12 months;
  • Subsequent offences would attract 6 demerit points, licence disqualification of no less than 3 years and a up to 2 years imprisonment.

If business vehicles were detected the following penalties would apply:

  • A body corporate levy of $25,000.00 for businesses failing to nominate the responsible driver for a camera detected offence;
  • A further expiation fee of $1,036.00;
  • Where a driver is not nominated and the body corporate is found guilty of the offence, a fine of between $25,000.00 and $50,000.00.

No body corporate levy was payable where a business successfully nominated the driver of the vehicle.

Revisions To The Penalties

Parliament has since revised the penalties applicable to these offences, which came into force at 12.01am on 6 December 2019.

Offences committed prior to this date continue to be subject to the penalties enforced at the time of the offence and it is important to remember that any offence committed before 6 December 2019 continue to count when determining penalties for any future offences.

If a person expiates one of the above or the below offences, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles must issue a notice of disqualification for the relevant period. There is no discretion in the legislation and no leniency can be applied by the Registrar, even where a truck or bus driver requires a licence for work.

Similarly, when a court convicts a person, there is no discretion with respect to the penalties applicable.

From 12.01am on 6 December 2019, drivers of trucks or buses whose vehicles are not engaged in low gear or exceed the relevant speed limit by 10 kph or more will receive the following penalties:

An expiation fee of $1,036.00 plus 6 demerit points. NO LICENCE DISQUALIFICATION FOR A FIRST OFFENCE APPLIES. However, if a person accrues 12 demerit points or higher, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will disqualify a person for the relevant time as per exiting provisions.

If convicted by a court, a first offender will attract a maximum fine of $5,000.00, plus 6 demerit points and a licence disqualification of no less than 6 months.

Second and subsequent offences will attract 6 demerit points and a licence disqualification of no less than 12 months.

In the case of a subsequent offender, a licence disqualification of no less than 3 years will be applied by up to 2 years imprisonment for a second and subsequent offender.

Business Vehicles

A business operator will receive a levy of $5,000.00 for businesses failing to nominate drivers responsible for a camera detected speeding offence, this is in addition to $1,036.00 expiation fee payable.

Where a driver is not nominated and the body corporate is found guilty, a fine between $10,000.00 and $20,000.00 applies.

No body corporate levy is payable if a business successfully nominates the driver of the vehicle.

These are heavy penalties indeed, designed to deter drivers putting the public at risk due to unsafe driving practices including speeding and driving faulty vehicles.

Examples of the types of vehicles that the new laws apply to include Emergency Services Vehicles, school and tour buses, cranes, drill rigs, sweepers, tip trucks, tow trucks, large utilities (including for example vans, motorhomes, chauffeur vehicles and taxi buses).

It is important to ensure that your vehicle is compliant not only with the law but road safety regulations.

We recommend that prior to the disposition of these matters, including either paying expiation fees or nominating to be prosecuted, that you seek urgent advice from one of our solicitors at Caldicott Lawyers.

Not only are heavy penalties applicable, but the result can lead to severe social and economic impact, including on families and individuals.

If you are unsure about whether your vehicle can be categorised as either a truck or a bus, please contact Service SA 131 084, check your certificate of registration and vehicle compliance plate, or use the EzyReg app or website.

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