A truck driver has won his case in Gosford Local Court after the Roads and Maritime Services prosecuted him for failing to pull into the checking station due to a badly worded sign at an F3 heavy vehicle checking station.
It is feared that the poorly worded sign has given overloaded or faulty trucks a legal loophole to fight their penalties in court.
The RMS, formerly the Roads and Traffic Authority were left somewhat red faced and truck drivers have been handed a legal defence for failing to pull into the checking station. The incident has also raised concerns about whether the RMS has the authority to force trucks into any of the state’s heavy vehicle checking stations.
If the signs do not specifically state the words “stop” or “divert to checking station”, truckies may not be obligated to stop.
The following excerpt from a post on www.BigRigs.com.au explains more on the issue:
Gosford magistrate Alan Railton dismissed on Thursday a charge against Port Macquarie truck driver Richard Mainey for failing to pull into the Mount White checking station in January after Mr Mainey said he was ”confused” about whether he was required to do so.
The RMS was ordered to pay Mr Mainey’s $1980 legal costs and the truck driver was not required to pay a $2200 fine after Mr Railton accepted that not one of five signs leading to the F3 north checking station complied with legislation requiring trucks to ”stop” or ”divert to checking station”.
Instead of the signs clearly indicating that drivers must stop, they identify the checking station and merely direct trucks into the left lane. They also instruct trucks to keep 30 metres apart but they do not say “stop” or anything more definitive that would oblige drivers to check in to the station.
The solicitor for the driver, David Spencer provided evidence of a NSW Supreme Court case that happened last year which the previous authority, (Roads and Traffic Authority) had lost because they did not use the word “stop” outside a different heavy vehicle checking station in the state. It found that truck drivers were being wrongfully charged for failing to pull into the checking station.
Magistrate Alan Railton said last week that he would not accept a guilty plea from another truck driver on the same charge at the same checking station until RMS resolved the issue, either appealing against the decision or making alterations to their signage.
Mr Spencer was also quoted in an article on TheHerald.com.au
‘‘You can’t plead guilty to something you haven’t done. In this case, my client was charged with contravening a direction to stop his vehicle, but there’s no sign saying that.’’
The case could set a precedent for future cases and therefore the decision has been circulated to traffic lawyers and the law society in NSW.
Importance of Complying with Chain of Responsibility
Although the truck driver in this instance may have been wrongfully prosecuted because of ambiguous signs (according to the magistrate’s decision), drivers and others in the supply chain need to be aware of their responsibilities under Chain of Responsibility Legislation. Everyone involved in the chain must be aware of what is required of them because ignorance of the law will not be accepted by authorities as an excuse for breaches and non-compliance.