Heavy Vehicles – Mass Requirements (Overloading)

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (NSW) requirements of Heavy Vehicles in respect of Mass, Dimension and Load Restraint are dealt with under Chapter 4 of the Act from ss. 94 – 115.

The main purpose of this Chapter is broadly stated as being to improve public safety by decreasing risks to public safety caused by overloaded or excessively large heavy vehicles; and to minimise any adverse impact of excessively loaded or excessively large heavy vehicles on road infrastructure or public amenity

Consequently, breaches of these laws, carry hefty monetary penalties and can often be imposed on not only the driver, but also the registered operator (see Liability of various parties).

Breaches

The categories of breaches for Mass requirements are Minor, Substantial and Severe breaches.  Mass breaches are often referred to as overloading.  Overloading occurs when the Gross Vehicle Mass of the vehicle is exceeded.

Under the Road Transport Act 2013 the definition of GVM is defined as the maximum loaded mass of the vehicle as specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer or as specified by the Authority (RMS).  The Authority will specify a GVM if the manufacturer has not specified a maximum loaded mass, or the manufacturer cannot be identified or there have been modifications to the vehicle to the extent that the manufacturer’s specification is no longer appropriate.

Care should be exercised when relying upon the manufacturer’s specification, as local laws might be in place which allow a lower mass than that specified.  Operator’s should be wary of the additional weight afforded by a full fuel tank compared with an almost empty tank.

The way a Mass Breach is calculated is set out in s.97 of the Act and is as follows –

“severe risk breach lower limit” , for a particular mass requirement applying to a heavy vehicle, means a mass equalling 120% of the maximum mass (rounded up to the nearest 0.1t) permitted for the vehicle under that mass requirement.

“substantial risk breach lower limit” , for a particular mass requirement applying to a heavy vehicle, means the higher of the following-
(a) a mass equalling 105% of the maximum mass (rounded up to the nearest 0.1t) permitted for the vehicle under that mass requirement;
(b) 0.5t.

Categories of Breaches

Minor Breach (s.98) –This occurs if the subject matter of the contravention is less than the substantial risk breach lower limit requirement.

Substantial Breach (s.99) – A contravention of a mass requirement applying to a heavy vehicle is a substantial risk breach if the subject matter of the contravention is-

(a) equal to or greater than the substantial risk breach lower limit for the requirement; and
(b) less than the severe risk breach lower limit for the requirement.

Severe Breach (s.100) – A contravention of a mass requirement applying to a heavy vehicle is a severe risk breach if the subject matter of the contravention is equal to or greater than the severe risk breach lower limit for the requirement.

Penalties – Breaches of Mass Requirements

An offence being a Minor Risk Breach carries a maximum penalty of $4,200.00

An offence being a substantial risk breach carries a maximum penalty of $6,300.00 and

An offence being a Severe Risk Breach carries a penalty of $10,490.00 plus an additional maximum of $520 for every additional 1% over a 120% overload but cannot exceed $21,000.00

Defences available

At common law, a person charged with offences such as these of strict liability, would have a defence known briefly as an honest and reasonable mistake of fact.  Sections 96, 102, 111 & 183 do not permit such defence. However, under the Act there is a statutory defence of what is termed “reasonable steps defence” and each of the above parties, have available to them such defence.

The thrust of the reasonable steps defence is twofold, being, that the defendant:

(a) did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, of the contravention, and

(b) had taken all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention.

Liability of various parties

In prosecutions for offences of Mass, Dimension or Loading requirements, (cf. ss. 96, 12 & 111) the driver is not the only person who might be penalised.

Section 183 deals with the liability of various other parties apart from the driver who are considered guilty of the offence.  These may be the employer, prime contractor, operator, consignor, packer, loading manager or loader.

It is not uncommon for the prosecuting authority to breach both the driver and the operating company who employs the driver.  In those circumstances, the penalties can prove costly.

Have you received a Court Attendance Notice?

Do you need a Lawyer?  These offences are looked upon seriously by the Authority and the penalties can be severe.

Please complete the contact form opposite or call us on (02) 9687 3777 and we will gladly assist you.

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