Councils and waste transport operators may face hefty
fines under 'chain of responsibility' legislation as a
result of a VicRoads crackdown on overloading of waste management
In recent months there has been a notable increase in
enforcement activity and the number of prosecutions against
municipal councils and waste transport operators for allegedly
overloading garbage trucks in breach of vehicle mass limit
provisions of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) (the
The charges seem to have arisen following investigations by
VicRoads involving weighbridge audits at various waste management
facilities and interviews with council management, transport
operators and individual drivers.
In most cases, the councils had contracted out their waste
collection services to external providers. However, councils and
transport operators have been charged as either the
consignor and/or consignee of the transported
waste product under the 'chain of responsibility'
provisions in the RSA.
As a result of the 'chain of responsibility'
legislation, part of which commenced operation throughout Australia
in 2005, any person using road transport as part of their business,
including consignors, packers, loaders, drivers, operators and
consignees can be held responsible for breach of vehicle mass and
dimension limits or load restraint requirements (amongst other
The penalties, if found guilty of exceeding vehicle mass limits,
vary depending on whether the breach is characterised as minor,
substantial or severe. Several councils and waste transport
operators are currently defending multiple charges (some in excess
of 100 separate offences) exposing them to maximum penalties of up
to $2 million.
In light of the notable increase in enforcement activity by
VicRoads and the potential for significant penalties if found
guilty, it is critical that persons charged, or being investigated,
for breaches of road safety laws seek legal advice at the earliest
possible stage particularly prior to taking part in an interview
with VicRoads Inspectors.
Deacons have very recent experience in defending clients charged
under the 'chain of responsibility' legislation and are
able to assist councils and waste transport operators during the
critical investigation stage and provide advice in respect of
defending prosecutions. Deacons can also provide advice to councils
and waste transport operators planning to review their waste
management contracts to ensure that new contracts comply with the
'chain of responsibility' provisions of the RSA
and ensure that any changes made do not compromise the success of
any defence that might be available in the event of a future
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The recent decision of Justice Ryan in the Federal Court of Australia in Seafood Imports Pty Ltd v ANL Singapore Pte Ltd (2010) FCA 702, confirmed and followed the approach of the High Court of Australia in Great China Metal Industries Co Limited v Malaysian International Shipping Corporation Berhad (the ‘Bunga Seroja’) 1998 196 CLR 161, in a case involving heating damage to a consignment of frozen seafood.
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