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The importance of heavy vehicle drivers complying with permits

I am going to discuss the importance of carefully complying with any mass and dimension permits that you are operating under. This is a really important thing for drivers to know about, because it’s an area where even a small breach can lead to significant consequences.

Most of you will be familiar with the permit scheme. The permits let drivers operate at higher mass and dimension limits than the usual laws do. Basically they can carry bigger and heavy loads when using a permit.

These permits come with a long list of conditions. Some are substantive ones – for example how much you can carry, the roads you can travel on, or whether you need a pilot vehicle. Others are of a more administrative nature – like having to carry the permit in the vehicle.

The important thing to know is that each and every condition must be strictly complied with. And this is where the sting comes – if you breach even the most minor condition, the permit is stripped away. The authorities will act as though the permit never existed when they work out whether you have committed a dimension or overloading offence. In short, they judge your load against the general limits.

In practical terms this has two consequences:

Firstly, a person could be charged with an overload or dimension offence, even if they were under the limit allowed in their permit. Say the driver is well below their permit levels, but they breach a condition of the permit. Once the permit is stripped away, the general limits apply and the truck will be well in excess of those.

The second consequence is that what would have been a small breach, can appear to be a much larger one. Take for example, a truck that is usually subject to a general limit of 42 tonnes, but has a permit allowing it to carry 52 tonnes. If the truck were carrying 52.1 tonnes it is in breach of its permit and the permit is to be disregarded. In reality, the truck was only 100 kg over what it was allowed to carry. This would be a minor breach and usually receive a small fine by penalty notice. However, because the breach now needs to be calculated from the general mass limit it appears to be 10.1 tonnes over. This is a very serious breach and would usually require the person to attend Court and face a very large fine.

The first is to remember that prevention is better than a cure. I help a lot of drivers who find themselves in serious trouble because they didn’t realise just how important it is to comply with even the most minor permit conditions. Just remember, that even the most insignificant seeming administrative condition, needs to be followed or you will most likely lose the benefit of the permit.

The second thing to know is what to do if you do find yourself in trouble. Many of these cases require the person to go to Court. However, even if the driver pleads guilty to the offence, they are still given the opportunity to explain the circumstances to the Magistrate when determining the appropriate penalty. Courts have great discretion to reduce or waive penalties in the right circumstances. Being able to show that there would have been either no offence or a much smaller one if the permit operated, can be one of the grounds for leniency.

Finally, if you ever find yourself in doubt seek assistance from the right sources. Lawyers who are experienced in heavy vehicle law will be able to give you guidance. Our team at Armstrong Legal is always willing and available to answer your questions.

Image Credit – Chrisroll ©

Written by John Sutton on November 5, 2018

John is the National Director of Criminal Law at Armstrong Legal. The experience John possesses, being a high quality mix of defence and prosecution skills, together with his team at Armstrong Legal, mean you can be certain of accurate, dependable and practical advice on how your matter can dealt with. View John's profile

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