Since 2018 there has been a Heavy Vehicle National Law (‘HVNL’) and Chain of Responsibility rules, governing every party in the heavy vehicle supply chain. These “chain of responsibility” laws means that truck drivers, companies, business owners, consignors and consignees all have a responsibility in ensuring that safety regulations are complied with.
The HVNL regulates all vehicles with a gross tonnage of or over 4.5 tonnes. The law regulates people who drive the vehicles but also people throughout the whole supply chain can be held liable under the criminal law.
This means that there are criminal breaches for all people on the supply chain for breaches of fatigue management, mass, dimension and loading rules, vehicle standards, registration and general rules and regulations governing the safety of heavy vehicles. A dedicated prosecution unit has been created to enforce penalties across Australia.
What are the penalties?
Offences are separated into three distinct categories of seriousness:
- Category 1: This is an offence where reckless breach of the rules that exposes someone to the risk of death or serious injury/illness. The penalties can be up to $300,000 and 5 years imprisonment for a person, or $3 million for a business;
- Category 2: Where a person is exposed to the risk of death or serious injury but it was not reckless. This can be a fine of up to $150,000 for a person or $1.5 million for a business;
- Category 3: These offences involve a breach of duty and can carry with it a maximum fine of $50,000 for a person or half a million for a business.
The HVNL prosecutions have really only just begun. A list of court outcomes and penalties are recorded and kept at the NHVR website and is available here. The most serious penalties in Victoria so far have occurred in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, where Marshall Jovanovska Ralph MJR Criminal Lawyers have been operating since 2003.
A case study involving an individual at Sunshine Magistrates’ Court involved a driver who was driving truck who was driving with a load that exceeded the permitted width of 2.5m by 200mm. He was driving without a licence and the vehicle was unregistered. The driver provided a false name and date of birth to police and had prior convictions for driving offences. The driver was placed on a 12 month Community Correction Order (‘CCO’) and convicted.
A case study involving a company, which was observed travelling with 2 containers. These were a 20-foot and 40-foot container. The vehicle was intercepted and the load was inspected and it was discovered that the company vehicle exceeded the mass requirements by 150%. The company was also not carrying the container weight declarations for the 2 containers. The company had no prior convictions. The magistrate at Werribee Magistrates’ Court convicted and fined the company $100,000.
Are you facing a criminal prosecution?
These charges can have drastic financial ramifications and some offences carry prison time of up to 5 years imprisonment. As these are criminal prosecutions it is important that you retain a criminal lawyer who has an understanding of these prosecutions and who appear in the courts on a daily basis for criminal matters.
Further, due to the wide net cast by the Chain of Responsibility laws it is important to have a criminal lawyer determine whether you can be found guilty under the prosecution.
At Marshall Jovanovska Ralph MJR Criminal Lawyers we appear exclusively in criminal law matters and have so since 2003. If you are facing a criminal charges under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, we highly suggest that you contact one of our experienced lawyers on (03) 9311 8500.