Fined for the sake of it

By: Rod Hannifey*


OPINION: It’s time for the NHVR to take the power away from police officers hell bent on hammering the industry

In the near future I will be fighting another fine in court after being charged with driving for six and a quarter hours without a break from 8pm to 2.15am. The fact I had marked the book at midnight on both pages with location and kilometres, but not the 15 minute break, might have got me a caution, or a clerical error fine. No, the officer would not look at the tracking device, he would not listen to my possible explanation and, of course, I then had a 7 and a quarter hour break after this. So you could reasonably accept it was not fatigue related in that I was managing my fatigue to get good rest when I pulled up for the night.

The officer had no interest in viewing the electronic entries

Beyond the fact that I sought a review which included photos of both the Teletrac device showing a 15 minute break and the logbook pages showing I had marked a stop, but not the 15 minutes break at midnight, I believe I have shown with two different recognised recording instruments I did not breach. Both show I did not break the law and yet I got a reply saying they could not rescind the fine – which is not the truth – and it would stand.

I suggested to the officer at the time that we have to count hours up. I could have started at 8.10pm so I would have to round up to 8pm (he argued this was not the case), then finished at 2.10am and would have to round up again so I have only worked for six hours. But have to show six hours 15 minutes. He also did not really give me a chance to look properly at the book when he found the issue.

I am getting to the point and have suggested that those who do such reviews must be held accountable. If we are to have a Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and it is to be policed and monitored and controlled by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), then the Police should have no jurisdiction on transport law. Of course if you are caught speeding or go through a stop sign police could still issue a fine. But as the police are not accountable to the NHVR in how they interpret the HVNL, they should not be allowed to police it.

As the NHVR takes over the state road authority staff who in the past were controlled and acted as directed by the relevant state, they are all being trained to the same standard. They are being given instructions on how to deal with truckies specifically and how to both use the law as needed, giving warnings where appropriate, not simply aiming to make more revenue from more fines. Those officers will be accountable to NHVR and we will be able to lodge a complaint against them if we believe they act badly. However, any such complaint to a fine issued by police goes to state revenue in New South Wales and no-one is held accountable by a third party.

Officer’s mistakes forgiven

Another mate was pulled up and even complimented on doing the right thing, then he was hit with a $685 fine for not having the records base filled in. This has nothing to do with road safety. His old book was still with him and showed the details and this should be a clerical error fine at $175, not a logbook breach at $685.

Page from the work diary (officer's marks in red)

The next fellow got pulled up sent the ticket in the mail and, on inspection, found the only thing correct was his name. It had the wrong rego, wrong address and wrong location, so what do you think happened when he then asked for the fine to be cancelled? He was told they would amend the mistake and reissue the ticket. How can such people as representatives of the law, whether the issuing officer or the people in the administrative section, be allowed to make a mistake but we can’t and are then fined large amounts of money for something with no possible correlation to road safety?

I will accept that if I am caught blatantly or deliberately cheating that may be grounds for a penalty if it can be shown to be linked to fatigue and/or road safety. What I can’t accept is where those who can legally work a double shift and get paid overtime for it and who, when away from home get far better paid and looked after than we do, can issue fines against a law that does not currently help us manage our fatigue. That is why and I others have written and spoken to both the HVNL review and the current Senate Inquiry into Road Transport.

Is me going to court for such a fine the best use of the court system? If I have a bad record or am a consistent offender, then perhaps it is not a mistake. However I do try to be compliant. My record said I have not being convicted of a single offence and have only had one offence (which was thrown out in court) against me, so would not a caution have been more effective?

The one thing in common now with all three of those involved in the aforementioned instances is a lessening of respect for some of those in blue uniforms. This is a sad and completely counter-productive outcome. We are not all perfect, but we are losing blokes who will get to the point they will not leave themselves open to such abuses on top of all the others, such as lack of rest areas, and being portrayed badly on TV news and current affairs shows. The general public have safer jobs, are at home each night and are not treated as criminals for doing their job. No wonder the mental health of drivers is where it is and such treatment by those without any real oversight, will only continue to make it worse.

 

*ROD HANNIFEY, a transport safety advocate, has been involved in raising the profile of the industry, conducting highway truck audits, the Blue Reflector Trial for informal parking bays on the Newell, the ‘Truckies on Road Code’, the national 1800 number for road repairs proposal, and the Better Roadside Rest Areas Group. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit www.truckright.com.au

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