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Home Resources & Technical Articles Driving & Traffic Offences Heavy Vehicle Offences Heavy Vehicle Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

Heavy Vehicle Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

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The Heavy Vehicle National Law (South Australia) Act 2013, regulates the operations of heavy vehicles in South Australia. The object of the law is to govern the use of heavy vehicles on the road to ensure public security, manage the effect of heavy vehicles in the surroundings and improve commerce productivity in the conveyance of goods and passengers by heavy trucks.

If an individual is convicted for a heavy vehicle offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

What is a Heavy Vehicle?

Under section 6 of the schedule of the Heavy Vehicle National Law(South Australia) Act, 2013, a vehicle is considered a heavy vehicle if it possesses more than 4.5 tonnes of Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) or Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM). A combination that encompasses a vehicle with a GVM or ATM of more than 4.5 tonnes is also a heavy vehicle.

Driving heavy vehicles on South Australia roads comes with obligations and duties as prescribed by the law. A breach of any of these duties is an offence which comes with its penalty. However, the driver of the heavy vehicle at the time of the infraction is not solely responsible for any of the obligations. It may extend to or fall on anyone under the chain of responsibility(CoR).

What is the Chain of Responsibility?

The chain of responsibility is a policy that vests obligations upon everyone under the supply line of a transport assignment. This means that anyone who, in any way, influences any aspect of the operations of the heavy vehicle is burdened with the responsibility to comply with the law and will be liable if a breach occurs.

The HVNL provides for parties to the chain of responsibility for a heavy vehicle. They are;

  • An employer of the driver of a heavy vehicle.
  • A prime contractor for the driver, where the vehicle's driver is self-employed.
  • The person who operates the vehicle.
  • Any person who schedules or plans the operations of the vehicle.
  • Any person who consigns the goods to be conveyed by the heavy vehicle(consignor).
  • Any person who accepts the goods transported in a heavy vehicle(consignee).
  • Any person who arranges goods meant for transport in a heavy vehicle.
  • Any person who supervises the loading of goods in a heavy vehicle.
  • Any person who directly loads goods into a heavy vehicle.
  • Any person who directly offloads goods off a heavy vehicle.

These persons are bestowed with one primary duty(things you can directly influence) or another. If they fail to carry out such responsibilities, they will be held accountable. Any person under the chain of responsibility may raise the defence of ""reasonable steps"" to escape liability.

Section 618, HVNL provides that to successfully plead a reasonable step defence, one must prove that;

  • The individual charged with the offence had no prior knowledge and could not have been relatively
  • expected to know about the breach in question.
  • The person charged took all adequate steps to avoid the breach, or there was no reasonable measure
  • the person could have taken to prevent the breach.

Fatigue-Regulated Heavy Vehicle

Section 7, HVNL states that a heavy vehicle is a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle if it is;

  • A vehicle with a GVM above 12 tonnes.
  • A combination with a GVM above 12 tonnes.
  • A fatigue-related bus.

Drivers who steer these vehicles on the road must comply with driver fatigue laws. Persons under the chain of responsibility here are also imposed with the duty to comply with the driver fatigue laws.

Section 225, HVNL, provides that a driver is said to be impaired by fatigue if the driver's capacity to safely navigate a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle is insufficient.

Section 223(1), HVNL states that fatigue is not limited to feeling sleepy, mentally weak, tired, or exhausted.

Section 228(1), HVNL imposes a duty on a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle driver to avoid driving such heavy vehicles on the road when impaired by fatigue.


The maximum penalty for a person who breaches this law is $6,000.

Work and Rest Hour

According to Section 243(1), HVNL, the work and rest hour option of a person who drives a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle is the extreme work requirements and the minimum rest requirements which apply to the driver under the law. The driver is obligated to obey these requirements strictly.

Work and rest hour offences are spread out into four classes;

  • Minor risk
  • Substantial risk
  • Severe risk
  • Critical risk

Except in the case of an exemption, every driver is mandated to document their work and rest hours in a work diary if they drive 100 km or more from their home base. Drivers who work under basic fatigue management or advanced fatigue management are also mandated to do this. They all bear heavy fines, and in addition to this, the significant and critical risk infringement carries demerit points.

Under sections 250 and 251 HVNL, it is an offence for solo and two-up drivers of a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle to work above the extreme work time stated in the standard hours or to rest below the minimum rest time stated in the standard hours.


The maximum penalty for the above two offences is $4000 for a minor risk breach, $6000 for a substantial risk breach, $10000 for a severe risk breach, and $15000 for a critical risk breach.

Speed Limit Offence

The speed limit for a vehicle with a GVM of over 12 tonnes is South Australia 100km/h. The same goes for buses with a GVM of over 5 tonnes.

Note that on certain roads, particular speed limits may apply due to the condition of the road. Drivers must comply with the speed limit signs on such roads. Compliance with the speeding provision under the Heavy Vehicle National Law(SA) is the responsibility of all parties in the chain of responsibility.

Heavy vehicles are expected to be fitted with a momentum limiter that restricts the vehicle to a maximum speed of 100 km/h. A heavy vehicle is said to be ''speed limiter compliant'' when fitted with a correct operating speed limiter.

A heavy vehicle driver commits a speed limiter offence where a vehicle expected to be fitted with a speed limiter is not.


Drivers who fail to obey the speed limits are;

  • Demerit points.
  • Suspension of licence.
  • Revocation or disqualification of licence.
  • Fines.

Heavy Vehicle Mass Dimension or Loading Offence (Overloading)

Restraints have been set on the mass and loading of vehicles and vehicle combinations by the Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) National Regulation. It applies to all vehicles with a GVM above 4.5 tonnes or any vehicle combination with a GVM above 4.5 tonnes.

These limits aim to enhance safety and lessen wear on the roads and bridges. Usually, the manufacturers of vehicles set GVM limits for each vehicle model.

A heavy vehicle should not be operated at a mass limit that will surpass the manufacturer's GVM or the mass limits that the law provides.

Both the driver and the person in the chain of command are responsible for ensuring that the specified limits are not exceeded.

In a situation where a heavy vehicle is overloaded, the penalty will be calculated based on the proportion that the load is over the acceptable weight. Also, whether the person being charged is an individual or body corporate will be considered. It will also be considered whether the perpetrator is a first-time or repeat offender,

Will heavy vehicle offences show up on a police check?

If an individual is found guilty of a heavy vehicle offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of a policebackground check.

Individuals can obtain a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.


Heavy Vehicle National Law (South Australia) Act 2013 (SA) -

Legal Services Commission of South Australia (Truck Drivers) -

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