The main purposes of Chapter 4 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law
(HVNL) are to protect the public by reducing the number of
overloaded vehicles on the roads, and to protect roads and
infrastructure from the excessive wear and tear caused by
The HVNL does this in several ways, summarised in s 94(2). These
include imposing mass limits on vehicles and restricting access to
certain roads by particular heavy vehicles.
Chapter 4 also accepts that a 'one size fits all'
approach will not recognise or promote efficiencies, and so it
allows for regulatory schemes with more flexible mass limits. While
this seems straightforward, the administration of those schemes can
be quite complex.
The starting point is the classification of vehicles into two
General Access Vehicles (GAVs); and
Restricted Access Vehicles (RAVs).
There are three classes of RAVs:
Class 1 vehicles are special-purpose vehicles, including
agricultural machinery and oversize and/or over-mass vehicles;
Class 2 vehicles are freight-carrying vehicles and include
B-doubles, passenger buses and livestock carriers; and
Class 3 vehicles are vehicles that, when measured together with
their load, do not comply with prescribed mass or dimension
The General Mass Limits (GML) set out in the
Heavy Vehicle National Regulations (HVNR) apply to
all heavy vehicles. However, it is possible to be licensed to
operate above these limits. One scheme is the Concessional Mass
Limit (CML) scheme, which allows accredited operators to operate at
5% above the GML. Another scheme is the Higher Mass Limits
(HML) scheme, which applies to vehicles with
While these arrangements promote higher efficiencies, they are
not without complexities – particularly for other parties in
the CoR who do not operate the vehicles themselves.
Under s 96 of the HVNL, it is an offence for a person to drive a
heavy vehicle on a road if the vehicle does not comply with the
mass requirements applying to that vehicle.
Section 183 extends that liability to:
the driver's employer;
the prime contractor;
the operator; and
any consignor, packer, loader or loading manager.
The reasonable steps defence applies to offences under s 96.
Section 194 creates liability for the consignee if that consignee
does an act or makes an omission, and that act or omission results
in (or is likely to result in) inducing or rewarding a
contravention of a mass limit in circumstances where the person
intended for that to occur, or was reckless or negligent.
The reasonable steps defence does not apply to s194.
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for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
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This decision will be significant to aviation industry participants in assessing whether claimants in the context of international or domestic carriage by air have commenced claims in an appropriate forum in Australia.
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