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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Load Restraint


Unsecured loads on heavy vehicles can pose significant danger to road users. The Heavy Vehicle National Law No 42a of 2013 requires all people involved in the operation of a heavy vehicle to ensure that it is loaded safely and securely. It is an offence to load a heavy vehicle incorrectly.

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

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”. In practice, it is usually the registered operator or driver of the heavy vehicle who is charged for a load restraint offence. However, parties include:

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

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 loaded contravened the above requirements.

The Load Restraint Guide

The National Transport Commission has published a Load Restraint Guide to help people comply with load restraint requirements. The guide can be relied upon by the prosecution to prove that a person breached the load restraint requirements. In court proceedings, it is enough for the prosecution to prove that the load was not placed, secured or restrained in accordance with 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.

What Are The Penalties?

The penalty the court can impose for a load restraint offence depends on:

  • the “risk category” of the offence (minor, substantial or severe);
  • whether this is a first or second/subsequent offence; and
  • whether the defendant is a person or a corporation.

Section 111 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law states the maximum penalties as $3000 for a minor risk breach, $5000 for a substantial risk breach and $10,000 for a severe risk breach.

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

Where a load restraint breach is detected, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) can charge anyone in the chain of responsibility for the offence. In practice RMS 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”.

The registered operator of the vehicle may not have been the person operating the vehicle at the time 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 is 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 RMS 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 offence.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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