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Load Restraint

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Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

Sarah Marinovic

Unsecured loads on heavy vehicles can pose significant danger to road users. The law requires all people involved in the operation of a heavy vehicle to ensure that it is loaded safely and securely.

In this section you will find valuable information on breaches of the load restraint requirements for heavy vehicles, or “load restraint” offences.

It is an offence to load a heavy vehicle incorrectly.





Who can be charged with the offence?

The law states that all parties involved in the road transport supply chain are responsible for preventing breaches of the road transport laws. This is called the "chain of responsibility".

The following persons can be charged for breaching the load restraint requirements for heavy vehicles:

  • consignors
  • packers
  • loaders
  • operators
  • drivers
  • consignees

In practice it is usually the registered operator or driver of the heavy vehicle who is charged for a load restraint offence.

What are the requirements?

The law states that the load on any vehicle must:

  • be loaded in a way that does not make the vehicle unstable or unsafe.
  • be secured so that it is unlikely to fall or dislodge from the vehicle.
  • be restrained by an appropriate method.

It is an offence to breach one of the above requirements. It is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the way your vehicle was contravened the above requirements.

The Load Restraint Guide

The National Transport Commission has published a guide which provides guidelines and advice to assist in complying with the load restraint requirements. The guide is called Load Restraint Guide: Guidelines and performance standards for the safe carriage of loads on road vehicles, Second Edition.

You can download a copy of the Restraint Guide from the National Transport Commission Website.

In addition to containing useful advice, the Load Restraint Guide, may also be relied upon by the prosecution to prove that you have breached the load restraint requirements. The Load Restraint Guide contains performance standards (in section F, page 186). In Court proceedings, it is enough for the prosecution to prove that the load was not placed, secured or restrained in accordance with the performance standards.

The performance standards require that:

  • Loads must be restrained to prevent unacceptable movement during all expected conditions of operation.
  • The load restraint system ensures that:
    • the load should not become dislodged from the vehicle.
    • any load movement should be limited so that it does not affect the vehicle’s stability and weight distribution.

These requirements will be met if the load restraint system can withstand the following forces:

  • half of its weight of the load sideways (0.5 g deceleration in a lateral direction)
  • 80% of the weight of the load forwards (when you break) (0.8 g deceleration in a forward direction)
  • half of the weight of the load backwards (for acceleration or breaking in reverse) (0.5 g deceleration in a rearward direction)
  • 20% of the weight of the load upwards (going over bumps in the road) (0.2 g acceleration relative to the load in a vertical direction)

What are the penalties?

(Correct as at time of publication - 31/08/12)

The maximum penalty that the Court can impose for a load restraint offence depends upon:

  • the "risk category" of the offence (i.e. how serious the breach is);
  • whether this is a first or second/subsequent offence; and
  • whether the defendant is a person or a corporation.

Minor Risk Breach

If the defendant is an individual the maximum penalty for a minor risk offence is:

  • $825 for a first offence
  • $1,650 for a second or subsequent offence

If the defendant is a body corporate the maximum penalty for a minor risk offence is

  • $4,125.00 for a first offence
  • $8,250 for a second or subsequent offence

Substantial Risk Breach

If the defendant is an individual the maximum penalty for a substantial risk offence is:

  • $1,650 for a first offence
  • $3,300 for a second or subsequent offence

If the defendant is a body corporate the maximum penalty for a substantial risk offence is:

  • $8,250 for a first offence
  • $16,500 for a second or subsequent offence

Severe Risk Breach

If the defendant is an individual the maximum penalty for a substantial risk offence is:

  • $5,500 for a first offence
  • $11,000 for a second or subsequent offence

If the defendant is a body corporate the maximum penalty for a substantial risk offence is:

  • $27,500 for a first offence
  • $55,000 for a second or subsequent offence

What if someone else was operating the vehicle at the time?

Where a load restraint breach is detected, the RMS (RTA) can charge any of the people in the chain of responsibility for the offence. In practice the RMS (RTA) often seeks to prosecute the operator of the vehicle. It does this by issuing the Court Attendance Notice to the person in whose name the vehicle is registered, i.e. the "registered operator".

Just because a person is the registered operator of the vehicle, does not mean that person was operating the vehicle for the purposes of the offence. The law says that the operator of a vehicle is the person responsible for controlling or directing the operations of the vehicle. It is usually the person or company running the business in which the truck is used.

The registered operator may not have the necessary control of the vehicle to be classified as the actual operator, for example, if it has been leased to another business.

If you were the registered operator, but not the actual operator of the vehicle, at the time of the offence you must provide a statutory declaration to the RMS (RTA) nominating the actual operator within 14 days of receiving the Penalty Notice or Court Attendance Notice. If you do not do this, the law provides that you are "taken to be guilty" of the offence.

The information which must be contained in the statutory declaration is strictly prescribed by law. If you do not provide a complying statutory declaration in time the court can find you guilty of the overload offence, and punish you as if you were the actual operator.

If you believe that you were not the operator of the vehicle at the time of an offence for which you have been charged, you can contact one of our experienced traffic lawyers on (02) 9261 4555.

The Reasonable Steps Defence

A "reasonable steps defence" is available to defendants charged with a load restraint offence if the person:

  • is the consignor
  • is the packer
  • is the loader
  • is the operator and the offence is a minor risk breach
  • is the driver and the offence is a minor risk breach

To succeed in this defence you must satisfy the Court that:

  • you did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to have known, of the dimension breach; and
  • either
    • you took all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention; or
    • there were no steps that you could reasonably be expected to have taken to prevent the contravention

Although this defence seems straight forward, it is in practice quite technical to prove. If you think that you may have a reasonable steps defence to your overload charge, you can contact one of our traffic lawyers on (02) 9261 4555.



where to next?

In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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