The Queensland Parliament has recently passed legislative changes amending the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). The amendments were assented to on 24 September 2015.

Queensland is the designated ‘host jurisdiction’ for the HVNL. This means that HVNL legislative changes start in Queensland before being rolled out in the other Australian states and territories.

Amendments made to the HVNL include:

  1. changes to the infringement penalties and demerit points in the HVNL scheme;
  2. inclusion of electronic work diary provisions; and
  3. the creation of new offences.

Infringement penalties and demerit points

In 2014 the National Transport Commission (NTC) completed a review of the penalties in the HVNL and developed a national penalties framework. The NTC made 15 recommendations following the review. Eight of the fifteen recommendations involved increasing maximum penalties for various offences.

Offences that now attract a higher penalty include:

  1. using a heavy vehicle in contravention of a vehicle standards exemption;
  2. a scheduler causing a driver to drive a heavy vehicle in circumstances where the driver’s schedule does not allow for compliance with speed limits or fatigue laws; and
  3. a driver failing to record relevant information in their work diary immediately after commencing work.

Electronic work diaries (EWDs)

Although EWDs are referred to in the HVNL, no electronic work diaries are currently approved under the legislation. The changes to the HVNL are intended to facilitate use of EWDs. EWDs are an alternative to the written work diaries used by fatigue regulated heavy vehicle drivers to record work and rest hours.

The goal is for EWDs to automatically record work and rest periods for drivers and to alert drivers when mandatory rest periods must be taken. Operators will have access to their drivers’ work and rest records in real time through wireless technology, allowing better management of fatigue-related risk.

New offences

The amendments to the HVNL create a number of new offences that apply to:

  1. a person who tampers with a vehicle modification plate or label affixed to a heavy vehicle; and
  2. a person who drives or operates a heavy vehicle without the required mass or dimension exemption.

The changes to the HVNL come into effect on a date to be fixed by proclamation.