The law limits how much weight a heavy vehicle can carry. Exceeding these limits is an offence, known as a “Mass Overload Offence”. In this article you will find information on the mass requirements for heavy vehicles and the consequences of breaching them.
What Are Mass Limits?
The mass limits are contained in the Heavy Vehicle National Law. There are two general types of limits that a vehicle must comply with:
- GVM – the “total” mass, and
- axle mass – the mass carried on a particular axle.
A truck must comply with both sets of limits. i.e. an offence will occur if an axle limit is exceeded, even if the truck is under its GVM limit.
Calculating A Vehicle’s Mass Limits
The specific mass limits vary depending on the vehicle. The precise limits depend on a range of factors, including the manufacturer’s recommendations, the type of vehicle, and the number and spacing between the axles. As a result it can be complicated to determine a vehicle’s limits.
It is important that people involved in the operation of a truck are aware of its mass limits. If you are unsure of a vehicle’s limits you can seek assistance from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator or Roads and Maritime Service.
Consequences Of Overloading
It is a criminal offence to exceed a mass limit on a heavy vehicle. Small breaches can be dealt with via the issuing of a Penalty Notice. For more serious matters, a Court Attendance Notice will be issued, requiring the person to appear before a magistrate.
Who Can Be Liable For A Mass Overload Offence?
The responsibility to comply with mass limits does not lay solely with drivers. The law makes other people in the trucking industry liable for overloads. If a mass overload offence occurs, charges can be brought against the:
- driver’s employer or prime contractor
- loading manager
Penalties For Overloading
The penalty for committing a mass overload offence is a fine. The maximum amount of the fine depends on the size of the overload.
The maximum penalties are increased each year and published on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s website.
Reasonable Steps Defence
The law recognises that sometimes mass overload offences will occur even when a person has done everything that they can to prevent it. For this reason a “reasonable steps defence” is provided. Under this defence, a person can be found “not guilty of a mass overload offence if the “court is satisfied that they:
- did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known, of the contravention; and
- took all reasonable steps to prevent it, or there were no steps they could reasonably be expected to have taken.
The court considers a wide range of factors when deciding whether a person has taken reasonable steps. Some examples include:
- by how much the mass limit was exceeded;
- what facilities were available to weigh the vehicle;
- training provided to employees;
- steps taken to address similar problems in the past.
For advice or legal representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.