Heavy Vehicle National Law – Dimension Contraventions

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is the primary law governing the dimension requirements for heavy vehicles. Heavy vehicles are defined as vehicles that exceed 4.5 tonne gross vehicle mass.[1] HVNL aims to improve public safety by reducing risks to public safety from excessively large vehicles. This is achieved through imposing dimension requirements for heavy vehicles and their loads. [2] Excessively large vehicles can contribute to collisions which can result in a serious injury or death.

Duty

The driver has a duty to ensure the vehicle, including its load and components complies with the dimension requirements applying to that vehicle.[3] Under the Chain of Responsibility this duty can also extend to other parties in the supply chain, which can include the driver’s employer, consignor, consignee, transport operator, loader, packer, or loading manager.[4] The dimension requirements include:

  1. Dimensions of a heavy vehicle
  2. Dimensions of a heavy vehicle and its load
  3. Dimensions of which a vehicle’s load projects from vehicle
  4. Internal measurements of a heavy vehicle

Categories of Contraventions

There are three categories of contraventions under the HVNL for dimension offences. The differences in categories depend on the severity of the breach, based on the extent the dimension requirements have been exceeded by the maximum dimensions permitted. The categories are:

  1. Minor risk breach
  2. Substantial risk breach
  3. Severe risk breach
Minor Risk Breach

A minor risk breach is the least severe offence category for dimension contraventions. An offence is classified as a minor risk breach if it relates to a vehicle’s ground clearance or the alleged contravention is less than the lower limits of the substantial risk breach below.[5]

Substantial Risk Breach

A substantial risk breach is the second most serious offence category for dimension contraventions. An offence is classified as a substantial risk breach if the dimension exceeds the following:

  • Length – 350mm excess of the maximum length permitted
  • Width – 40mm excess of the maximum width permitted
  • Height – 150mm excess of the maximum height permitted
  • Load projection – 40mm excess of the maximum permitted on any side of vehicle[6]

A minor risk breach can also escalate to a substantial risk breach in the following circumstances:

  • The minor risk breach is in relation to length and the rear of the vehicle’s load does not carry a sign or warning device required under the regulations.
  • The minor risk breach is in relation to length and the vehicle’s load projects in a way that is dangerous to persons or property.
  • The minor breach is in relation to width and the alleged offence occurs at night or in conditions with reduced visibility.[7]
Severe Risk Breach

A severe risk breach is the most serious offence category for dimension contraventions. An offence is classified as a severe risk breach if the dimension exceeds the following:

  • Length – 600mm excess of the maximum length permitted
  • Width – 80mm excess of the maximum width permitted
  • Height – 300mm excess of the maximum height permitted
  • Load projection – 80mm excess of the maximum permitted on any side of vehicle[8]

A substantial risk breach can also escalate to a severe risk breach in the following circumstances:

  • The substantial risk breach is in relation to length and the rear of the vehicle’s load does not carry a sign or warning device required under the regulations.
  • The substantial risk breach is in relation to length and the vehicle’s load projects in a way that is dangerous to persons or property.
  • The substantial risk breach is in relation to width and the alleged offence occurs at night or in conditions with reduced visibility.[9]
Dangerous Projections

Dimension requirements can also be contravened if a heavy vehicle’s load projects in a way that is dangerous to persons or property. A contravention can occur under this provision despite a vehicle complying with all dimension and warning requirements.[10] The severity of the breach will be dependent on the breach of the relevant lower limits discussed above.

Contraventions can be detected by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) or Victoria Police by inspecting and taking measurements of vehicles and loads, CCTV, photographs, and witness statements.

Legal Dimension Requirements

Schedule 6 of the Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) Regulation 2013 (Vic) (‘regulations’) prescribe dimension requirements for heavy vehicles and their load.

Length

There are prescribed length requirements for heavy vehicles for different vehicle types and components, this includes the following:

  • Combination and single vehicles
  • Trailers
  • Rear overhang
  • Trailer drawbar

An example of length dimensions for combination and single vehicles is listed below. Note these are not the full requirements and should not be relied on as such.

Length of combination and single vehicles must not be in excess of:

  • 19 metres for combinations other than B-double or combination with 2 decks
  • 25 metres for B-double
  • 53.5 metres for a road train
  • 25 metres for other combination other than road train designed to carry vehicles
  • 18 metres for articulated bus
  • 14.5 metres for other bus than an articulated bus
  • 12.5 metres for single vehicle[11]

The length of the B-double can be increased to a maximum of 26 metres if it complies with the conditions under the regulations.[12]

Width

The maximum width permitted for a heavy vehicle is 2.5 metres.[13] The width is measured in accordance with the regulations.

Height

The maximum height permitted for heavy vehicles is generally 4.3 metres.[14] However the height can vary dependent on the type of vehicle. The maximum height permitted for other heavy vehicles is:

  • 4.6 metres for vehicles built to carry cattle, horses, pigs, or sheep
  • 4.6 metres for vehicles with at least 2 decks for carrying vehicles
  • 4.6 metres for a specified semitrailer
  • 4.4 metres for a double decker bus[15]
Ground Clearance

There are ground clearance requirements for heavy vehicles. Ground clearance is the minimum distance between the underside of the vehicle body with the ground and does not include tyres, wheels, wheel hubs, brake backing plates, mudguards and mudflaps.[16] The ground clearance requirements include:

  • Within 1 metre of an axle – minimum of 100mm ground clearance
  • Midpoint between axles – minimum of one thirtieth of the distance between the centre line of each axle
  • Other points – minimum distance that allows the vehicle to pass over a peak in road if gradient on either side of peak is 1:15.
Projection Limits

There are maximum limits prescribed for the projection of the load from the vehicle. Projection means the extent the load extends outside of the vehicle dimensions. The limits are assigned for the projection of the load on the rear, front and side of the vehicle.

Rear

The load must not project more than 1.2 metres outside the rear of a heavy vehicle.[17] The vehicle must also comply with the rear overhang limit and the total length limit of the vehicle which includes the rear projection limit.

The maximum rear overhang limit varies for different vehicles types. For general heavy vehicles the maximum rear overhang is the lesser of 3.7 metres or 60% of the distance between the centre line of the front axle and the rear overhang line.[18] For other vehicle types it is per the following:

  • Other combinations including trailer – Lesser of 3.7 metres or the distance between the front of the trailer’s body or load carrying area and its rear overhang line
  • Combinations including semtrailer, dog trailer, tag trailer – Lesser of 3.7 metres or the distance between the trailer’s front articulation point and its rear overhang line[19]

Front

The load must not project more than 1.2 metres in front of the heavy vehicle’s headlights. This applies to single vehicles and combinations of 1 or more trailers.[20] The vehicle must not exceed the total length limit for that vehicle which includes the front projection limit.

Side

The load must not project more than 150mm past the outer edge of the vehicle on either side. This applies to single vehicles and combinations of 1 or more trailers.[21] The vehicle must not exceed the total width limit of 2.5 metres which includes the side projection limit.

Warning Requirements

Under the HVNL rear warning signals are required for loads in the following circumstances:

  • If the load projects more than 1.2 metres behind a heavy vehicle including trailer combination or
  • If the load projects from a pole type trailer in a heavy combination or
  • If the load projects in a way that it would not be readily visible to person following immediately behind the vehicle [22]

Type of Warning Signals

The following types of warning signals are required:

  • Day-time – Brightly coloured red, red and yellow, or yellow flag at least 300mm X 300mm fixed to the extreme back of the load
  • Night-time – Light showing clear red light to the back visible at a distance of at least 200 metres fixed to the extreme back of the load [23]

Dimension Requirement Exception

NHVR has the power to grant exemptions to dimension requirements for certain heavy vehicles (class 1 and 3) by a Commonwealth Gazette notice or permit.[24] An exemption under a Commonwealth Gazette notice can be issued for a maximum period of 5 years and an exemption under a permit can be issued for a maximum period of 3 years. [25]

Risk Controls

Duty holders should implement effective risk controls to manage the risks arising from excessively large vehicles, which may include:

  1. Determining and communicating dimension limit requirements to relevant persons
  2. Reviewing and managing routes to identify and avoid any hazardous roads which may impact vehicle stability
  3. Utilising vehicles with a higher standard of safety measures and stability
  4. Implementing procedures to ensure vehicles comply with dimension limit requirements
  5. Reviewing vehicles to ensure they are suitable for the load
  6. Implementing technological aids to measure and monitor dimension requirements
  7. Conducting random inspections to verify compliance with dimension requirements
  8. Conducting regular training on the risks of excessively large vehicles and dimension requirements
  9. Conducting regular auditing of dimension management systems to identify any deficiencies and ensure continuous improvement
  10. Ensuring warning signals are implemented and maintained where required

 


[1] Heavy Vehicle National Law 2013 (Vic) section 6.

[2] ibid section 94.

[3] ibid section 102.

[4] ibid section 26A.

[5] ibid section 105.

[6] ibid section 104.

[7] ibid section 106.

[8] ibid section 104.

[9] ibid section 107.

[10] ibid section 108.

[11] Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) Regulation 2013 (Vic) schedule 6, section 3.

[12] ibid schedule 6, section 3.

[13] ibid schedule 6 section 7.

[14] ibid schedule 6 section 8.

[15] ibid schedule 6 section 8.

[16] ibid schedule 6 section 9.

[17] Heavy Vehicle National Law 2013 (Vic) section 109.

[18] Heavy Vehicle (Mass, Dimension and Loading) Regulation 2013 (Vic) schedule 6, section 12.

[19] ibid section 12.

[20] ibid section 13.

[21] ibid section 13.

[22] Heavy Vehicle National Law 2013 (Vic) section 109(1).

[23] ibid section 109(2).

[24] ibid sections 117, 122.

[25] ibid sections 117, 122.