Australia: HVNL mass measurement: Is near enough good enough?

Last Updated: 6 April 2017
Article by Dilip Ramaswamy (formerly with Holding Redlich)

Most Read Contributor in Australia, July 2018

Under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), compliance with prescribed mass limits is an essential issue for road safety and asset protection. When measuring mass, is near enough good enough?

What are your mass obligations?

A person must not drive (on a road) a heavy vehicle that (together with its load) does not, or whose components do not, comply with the mass requirements applying to the vehicle.

The HVNL also makes it is an offence for a person to make an inaccurate, false or misleading statement as to the particulars of a consignment, including mass, to any official or in any transport documentation. The false and misleading provisions impose liability for knowing or reckless statements as to mass.

There is only one situation in which you cannot be held liable under the HVNL for a misstatement as to the mass of any consignment – and that is when you overstate its mass, meaning that the vehicle and load would actually weigh less than stated.

It is crucial that the mass of loads, and the axle and gross mass of vehicles, are able to be measured or calculated reasonably accurately. Where a mass breach occurs, all parties in the chain are deemed to have committed that breach, unless they can show that they had no ability to control or influence mass compliance, or they took all reasonable steps to avoid the breach. Find more information about measurement adjustment here.

Consequences of incorrect mass measurements

The importance given to getting your mass measurements correct arises from the consequences stemming from overweight vehicles. Transporting overweight loads on the road can cause a number of issues, including:

  • accelerating road wear;
  • damage to infrastructure; and
  • longer braking distances and vehicle instability.

The HVNL also extends liability for mass offences outside the operator and driver of the heavy vehicle. Indirect parties including the driver's employer, prime contractor, operator, consignor, packer and consignee will not be able to escape liability simply because they were not directly involved in driving or operating the vehicle.

What is the threshold for mass compliance?

There is no mandated method for mass measurement and no particular equipment that must be used to measure mass. Where mass is not physically measured but is calculated by some other means, there is no mandated method of calculation.

However, as soon as any mass limit is exceeded, an offence occurs. The HVNL provides for several offences for mass breaches and categorises them into four categories:

  1. Minor.
  2. Substantial.
  3. Severe.
  4. Critical.

The categorisation of the offence depends on the degree to which it exceeds the permitted limits. The more severe the category of offence, the higher the potential penalties.

So, although there is no mandated method for mass measurement, it is essential from a compliance perspective that whatever method is used is reliable and accurate.

Given that no particular form or brand of measurement equipment is mandated, what about the standard of accuracy of any equipment used? Is near enough good enough? Any mass breach is actionable, so near enough isn't good enough.

The Heavy Vehicle National Regulator (NHVR) has taken into account that an assessment of mass may potentially vary from time to time due a number of factors including the equipment used, the measuring methods and the surrounding conditions, e.g. site set up.

Therefore, the NHVR will apply a 'measurement adjustment' when assessing compliance with mass and dimension limits in certain circumstances. Depending on how mass is measured and how a site is set up (e.g. whether weighing equipment is on a flat concrete surface vs a bitumen surface vs an unsealed surface), the regulator will allow an adjustment of between 250 kilograms and 1,000 kilograms per measurement. The mass adjustment only applies where mass is actually physically weighed on site. Where mass is not weighed but is calculated by other means, the mass adjustment does not apply.

Taking reasonable steps to prevent mass offences

Parties in the chain will often be required to establish that they have taken all reasonable steps in relation to mass offences. Some of the important issues that a court will consider, as identified in the HVNL, include:

  • the circumstances of the offence;
  • what measures were taken by the party in relation to mass compliance;
  • the measures available and measures taken by the party;
  • whether the party had, either personally or through an employee or agent, custody or control of the heavy vehicle, its load, or any goods included or to be included in the load; and
  • the personal expertise and experience that the party had or ought reasonably to have had, or that an employee or agent of the party had or ought reasonably to have had.

Parties in the chain must always take all reasonable steps to ensure vehicles are loaded within their legal mass limits. Breaches of vehicle mass are serious offences and therefore the importance in getting this right cannot be overstated.

Near enough is not good enough. While there is some allowance for error, it is limited to certain circumstances only and in any event, will not excuse a failure to manage mass at all.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions