John Lewis

John Lewis from Lindbloms Lawyers has successfully challenged the new legislation regarding speeding fines for ‘heavy vehicles’ on the South Eastern Freeway on behalf of a client who was driving  a ‘minibus’.

On 1 May 2019, the South Australian Government introduced new legislation restricting the speed of ‘heavy vehicles’ traveling down the South Eastern Freeway.

The new law limits ‘heavy vehicles’ to a maximum speed of 60kmph between Crafers to the intersection of Portrush, Cross and Glen Osmond Roads.

Mr Lewis stated that:

“whist this legislation was well intentioned, it has had significant unintended consequences for drivers of small minibuses, vans and larger utility vehicles including the Ford F350 and Dodge RAM”.

“Therefore under the law if you exceed the 60kmph speed limit driving these vehicles, you may be treated the same as if you were driving a B Double truck”.

“This law unfairly targets normal law abiding people who are not driving heavy trucks or large buses, which is unacceptable.”

In September 2019, Mr Lewis’ client hired a 12 seat minibus and was driving west on the South Eastern Freeway.  He was travelling well under the prescribed speed limit of 90kmh.

In January 2020 his client received an expiation notice of $1,096, 6 demerit points and loss of license for 6 months.

Mr Lewis said:

this was a devastating outcome for my client, who required his license for his employment”.

“Although the Government has since amended the law that a 6 month licence disqualification does not apply for a first offence, the new law is not retrospective, and therefore the penalty remains in place for my client and anyone else who allegedly offended under the old law”.  

After being instructed by his client to challenge the penalties, Mr Lewis wrote to various agencies including the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and SAPOL.

Mr Lewis argued that his client was not driving a ‘bus’ or a heavy vehicle and should not have been issued with either an expiation notice, demerit points or a notice of disqualification as the minibus had a maximum of 12 seats including the driver.

Mr Lewis stated that the vehicle was presented to our client with a total of twelve (12) seats installed in the vehicle (11 passenger seats plus the driver).

In particular he cited the definition of a bus under Part 1, Section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) states that a:

“bus means a motor vehicle built mainly to carry people that seats over 12 adults (including the driver)”.

Importantly this minibus was previously a 14 seat motor vehicle, however the bus hire company had:

  • modified the vehicle to 12 seats;:
  • had a vehicle inspection report; and
  • received a new modification plate to confirm the vehicle had 12 seats.

However the Government had not updated the registration details of the vehicle, which was still listed as a 13-35 seat bus.

After several weeks of liaison and communication on behalf of his client, SAPOL advised Mr Lewis’ client on 19 March that they were withdrawing the expiation notice, demerit points and license disqualification.

“This is a win for the little guys, and common sense has finally prevailed”.

“This legislation was poorly drafted and I have no doubt that it has impacted on many other people who do not drive heavy vehicles, and who are just going about their business”.  

“I congratulate SAPOL on their attitude and being prepared to overturn the expiation notice.”

GENERAL ADVICE:

  • If you are hiring a motor vehicle including a minibus or a van, make sure you check the registration certificate of the vehicle and the compliance plate. You can also check by contacting Service SA.
  • Tradies beware!! If you own a vehicle, check the registration certificate of the vehicle and the compliance plate. Some of the new popular ‘utes ‘imported from overseas may be over the 4.5 tonne threshold, which means under the law you are driving a ‘heavy vehicle’.
  • To compound this, if the vehicle is registered under a business and you don not nominate a driver, you will be liable to a $25,000.00 fine.
  • Therefore it is important to maintain records of who drives the vehicle.
  • Be wary about immediately paying an expiation notice in these circumstances. If you do pay, and don’t challenge the expiation notice including not seeking a court hearing to argue your matter or seeking a review of the expiation notice, it is extremely difficult to have your matter re-considered.
  • Finally, if in doubt about a fine or expiation notice you have recently, contact a lawyer to get legal advice.