Speeding Trucks - Heavy Vehicle Speed Limiters


Roads Minister declares “blitz” on cowboy operators who tamper with speed limiting devices.

Speed limiting of heavy vehicles has been brought to the forefront of public attention following the charging of a truck driver in relation to the death of 3 people when his truck crashed into their car on 24 January 2012. It subsequently emerged that the speed limiting devices on many of the trucks owned by the driver’s bosses had been tampered with. In the fallout, Roads Minister Duncan Gay has declared a “blitz” on cowboy operators who tamper with the speed limiting devices on their vehicles.

Most players in the trucking industry are eager to ensure that they comply with their obligations under the speed limiting legislation. With random checks of the devices by the Police to be scaled up, it is more important than ever that the trucking industry clearly understands the requirements.

What is speed limiting?

The NSW Road Rules provide a special speed limit for vehicles with a GVM over 4.5 tonnes, and vehicles and trailers with a GCM over 4.5 tonnes. Those vehicles must not travel in excess of 100 kilometres per hour.

To ensure that the lower speed limit is complied with, the law in NSW requires most heavy vehicles to be fitted with a device that limits the maximum speed that it can travel to 100 kilometres per hour.* There are a number of offences that a person can be charged with if this requirement is not complied with.

What Vehicles Must Be Fitted With A Speed Limiter?

The law requires the following vehicles to be fitted with a speed limiter:

  • Motor lorries manufactured between 1988 and 1991 with a GVM in excess of 15 tonnes.
  • Buses used to provide a public passenger service manufactured between 1988 and 1991 with a GVM in excess of 14.5 tonnes
  • Motor lorries manufactured on or after 1 January 1991 with a GVM in excess of 12 tonnes
  • Buses used to provide a public passenger service manufactured on or after 1 January 1991 with a GVM exceeding 5 tonnes.

For the purposes of this law, a motor lorry is a vehicle that is constructed mainly for use in work or to convey goods, merchandise, or materials used in trade, business or industry.

The speed limiter requirements apply to all vehicles driven in NSW which fall into the above categories. A vehicle is not exempted even if it is registered in another state, or the driver is licensed in another state, or the person responsible for it is from another state.

What Are The Consequences Of Failing To Comply With The Speed Limiting Requirements?

As can be seen by the recent crackdown, the law enforcement bodies in New South Wales take the speed limiting requirements seriously. A breach of the above laws can result in the driver or the person responsible for the vehicle being charged with a number of offences. The Roads and Maritime Authority can also impose non-criminal sanctions, such as suspending the vehicle’s registration.Consequences for the person responsible for the vehicle criminal sanctions

There are several offences which the “responsible person” for the vehicle can be charged with as a result of a speed limiter not operating correctly.

The laws relating to speed limiting consider each of the following persons a “responsible person” for a registered vehicle:

  • The registered operator
  • A person who has a legal right to possession of the vehicle (for example a person who has use of the vehicle under a lease or hire-purchase agreement)
  • If the vehicle has been sold but the registration not yet transferred, the purchaser

The responsible person for the vehicle is guilty of a crime if the vehicle is not fitted with a compliant speed limiter. To prove that this offence has occurred, it is enough for the prosecutor to show that the vehicle was travelling at more than 115 kilometres per hour.

There are significant fines which can be imposed on a person who is found to be responsible for a non-compliant vehicle:

  • in the case of an individual the Court can impose a fine of $3,300
  • in the case of a corporation the Court can impose a fine of $16,500

A heavy vehicle without a working speed limiter is likely to be driven in excess of its 100 kilometres per hour speed limit. If this occurs, the responsible person may be guilty of an offence of “causing, permitting or allowing” the vehicle to travel in excess of the speed limit. If this occurs they may be liable to a fine of up to $3,300.

Other sanctions

The Roads and Maritime Authority can impose a variety of administrative sanctions where a vehicle does not comply with the standards, or is used to commit an offence.

If the Police or Roads and Maritime Service have reason to believe that a heavy vehicle which should be speed limited is capable of travelling at more than 105 kilometres per hour (for example if it is detected speeding), they can issue a “modification notice” to the responsible person. The modification notice can:

  • require a speed limiter to be installed, or the defective limiter repaired
  • require the responsible person to provide information about the repairs
  • require the vehicle to be tested to ensure that its speed limiter is compliant

If a vehicle is not fitted with a complying speed limiter the Roads and Maritime Authority may suspend or cancel its registration.

Further if the Roads and Maritime Authority is satisfied that the registered operator of a vehicle has failed to use or manage the vehicle so as to effectively prevent repeated violations of the traffic law it may suspend the vehicle’s registration for up to 3 months. This action could be taken where the vehicle is repeatedly detected exceeding the speed limit.

Consequences for drivers

The charging of the driver of the vehicle involved in the January 2012 accident with “dangerous driving causing death” is a salient reminder that drivers can be criminally responsible for incidents involving a vehicle with an incorrectly operating speed limiter.

If the driver of a heavy vehicle is caught speeding they can face fines of up to $3,300. If they exceed the speed limit by more than 30 kilometres per hour their drivers licence can be suspended or disqualified.

Where a driver of a heavy vehicle is involved in an accident, the consequences can be far more serious. Penalties for the offence of negligent driving causing injury or death include lengthy licence disqualifications and imprisonment.

Where To Get Help

Given the serious sanctions which can be imposed, it is important that anyone charged with an offence involving a speeding heavy vehicle seek legal advice. If you would like more assistance please contact one of our experienced traffic lawyers.

*road trains must be limited to 90 kilometres per hour.

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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