Many people tend to overload their trucks in an attempt to save costs. Loading a truck beyond its capacity can have disastrous consequences. Beyond immediate dangers to safety, overloaded trucks also damage roadways by exposing them to loads beyond their design tolerances.
In Australia, the National Transport Commission proposed certain penalties whereby a truck driver and/or a truck operator may face fines and suspension of vehicle registration for overloading trucks besides national penalties including requirement to off-load excess weight, on-the-spot-fines and a Court power to remove transport companies from the industry for any persistent offence.
Legislation Relating to Truck Overloading Offence in New South Wales (NSW)
In NSW, the main legislation regulating offences related to truck overloading is the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 (the Act). The Act provides for 3 levels of mass breaches:
Minor Risk Breaches(less than 5%): Any overload up to 5% over the allowable weight is categorised as a minor risk breach. An individual or a body corporate committing minor risk breach is liable to pay a maximum fine of $1,100 and $5,500 respectively for the first offence and a maximum fine of $2,200 and $11,000 respectively for a second or a subsequent offence.
Substantial Risk Breaches (greater than 5% but less than 20%): Overload between 5% and 20% over the allowable weight is categorised as a “substantial risk breach”. An individual committing substantial risk breach is liable to pay a maximum fine of $ 2,200 for the first offence and $11,000 for the second or subsequent offence. Whereas, a body corporate is liable to pay a maximum fine amounting to $4,400 and $22,000 respectively for the first and second or a subsequent offence
Severe Risk Breaches (20 % or more): Any overload which is 20% or more over the allowable weight is categorised as a “severe risk breach”. An individual committing a severe risk breach is liable to a maximum penalty of $5,500 plus $550 for every additional 1% that the overload exceeds 20% of the allowable weight for the first offence and $11,000 plus $1,100 for every additional 1% that the overload exceeds 20% of the allowable weight for a second or subsequent offence. Whereas, for a body corporate the maximum penalty is $27,500 plus $2,750 for every additional 1% that the overload exceeds 20% of the allowable weight for the first offence and $55,000 plus $5,500 for every additional 1% that the overload exceeds 20% of the allowable weight for the second or a subsequent offence.
Matters to be Taken into Account by the Court
According to Section 60(2) of the Act, a Court may take into consideration various matters while dealing with an offence under this Act. In determining the penalty (ies) to be imposed for breach of mass, dimension or load restraint requirements, the Court takes into account the classification of the breach and certain matters with regard to that classification such as an appreciable or substantial or severe risk of:
Accelerated road wear or
Unfair commercial advantage or
Damage to road infrastructure or
Increased traffic congestion or
Diminished public amenity or
Harm to public safety or the environment.
Persons Who can be Charged for Breach and Reasonable Steps to Defend
Persons who can be charged under the Act for breaching mass requirements include consignors, packers, loaders, operators, drivers and consignees. Any person charged with an overload offence may plead the following grounds of defense before a Court:
That he did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known, of the contravention concerned; and
That he had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention or that there were no steps that he could reasonably have been expected to take in preventing the contravention.
Reasonable steps may include developing an industry code of practice or using accreditation schemes or reviewing the business practices or changing commercial arrangements or adopting a risk management approach.
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