JONATHAN BHANA-THOMSON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NZ HEAVY HAULAGE ASSOCIATION
CHANGES HAVE RECENTLY been made to the Vehicle Dimensions and Mass Rule relating to the enforcement process and fines associated with overloading offences for loads travelling on overweight permits. These came into force on 8 July, and they have been received with a sense of relief more than anything.
They have been a long time coming and to finally see them come into law does away with huge penalties that simply did not fit the offence.
The headline change for the heavy haulage industry is the removal of the ‘null and void’ clause which essentially treated the operator as if they didn’t have a permit, by voiding any permit that they held if any condition was breached. These overloading fines were calculated from the normal maximum weight of the transporter and so fines in the region of $30,000 were not unusual.
Note that the fines we objected to were not about loading over the gross weight of the permit but rather where an individual axle is overloaded.
Changes sought for many years
The NZ Heavy Haulage Association had been pushing for reform to the way that these fines are calculated for many years, and Warwick Bell, the current heavy haulage sector convenor on the Association’s board, has been personally pushing for changes to this since he first entered the sector more than 20 years ago. He has stated that while there needed to be a penalty relating to overloading of overweight loads, the vast majority of the time, this is simply because an overweight load is placed either slightly forward or behind the optimum point. Sometimes this can be a matter of 30 centimetres difference, and while an individual axle may be overloaded, this is well within the gross loading of the vehicle as listed on the permit.
So under this new regime, any overloading fines will be calculated by comparing the weighed up weight with that stated on the permit. Under the new regime, the permits will now remain valid, rather than being voided. However there are some circumstances when the permit will be made invalid, and these include:
- Travelling off the specified route on the permit (unless directed to by NZ Police or a road controlling authority)
- The permit is illegally altered
- The vehicle or the person operating the vehicle are not those described on the permit.
In these circumstances there are still be large fines that could be imposed.
In addition there is now a range of ‘critical’ conditions identified on an overweight permit that attract a $2000 infringement fine, which is a new offence. In addition, overloading offences can be calculated which add to this.
The critical conditions are that the vehicle must not:
- Exceed the maximum permitted gross weight stated on the permit
- Exceed vehicle design limits – such as the GVM
- Breach a travel restriction for travelling over a bridge (BESS).
However for the operator who has a permit and is otherwise complying with bridge restrictions, they will no longer be treated as a criminal who has no intention to comply with the law.
Role of the Association
It does need to be stated that without the lobbying effort from the Association, that this change would not have come to pass for the heavy haulage industry. We are proud of what we have achieved for our sector through our persistence and tenacity.
While some of these changes to major rules can seem to be an insurmountable mountain, the taste of victory is sweet when it has been pursued for some time.