Heavy Vehicle National Law – Vehicle Standards

The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) is the primary law governing the vehicle standard requirements for heavy vehicles. Heavy vehicles are defined as vehicles that exceed 4.5 tonne gross vehicle mass.[1] The HVNL aims to reduce safety risks by ensuring heavy vehicles comply with the specified vehicle standard and condition.[2] Heavy vehicles of poor standard or condition can contribute to collisions or other incidents which may cause a serious injury or death.

Duty

The driver has a duty to ensure heavy vehicles used on roads comply with the heavy vehicle standards applying to that vehicle.[3] The driver also has other duties in relation to vehicle standards, which include:

  • To not use an unsafe heavy vehicle on a road[4]
  • To not use a heavy vehicle on a road that is not fitted with an operating emission control system[5]
  • To not tamper with an emission control system fitted to the heavy vehicle[6]
  • To only display warning signs on vehicles when requirements apply[7]
  • To not tamper with a speed limiter fitted to a heavy vehicle[8]
  • To not modify a heavy vehicle unless approval is obtained[9]

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.[10] The heavy vehicle standards include requirements applying to:

  1. Heavy vehicles
  2. Components of heavy vehicles
  3. Equipment of heavy vehicles

Contraventions can be detected by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) or Victoria Police by checking of compliance to vehicle standards. This may be achieved by inspecting vehicles and equipment, CCTV, photographs and witness statements.

Vehicle Standard Requirements

Vehicle standard requirements are detailed in the Heavy Vehicle (Vehicle Standards) Regulation 2013 (Vic) (‘regulations’). The following is an example of the requirements that apply to single heavy vehicles. Note these are not the full requirements and should not be relied on as such.

Australian Design Rules

Heavy vehicles are required to comply with the Australian Design Rules (ADR)[11]. There are exceptions that can exempt certain heavy vehicles from compliance with the ADR. This includes vehicles that are not road vehicles or are subject to particular approvals.[12]

General Safety Requirements

Heavy vehicles must comply with the general safety requirements.[13] The general safety requirements are detailed in the regulations and include requirements for:

  1. Steering
  2. Turning ability
  3. Ability to travel backwards and forwards
  4. Protrusions
  5. Driver’s view and vehicle controls
  6. Seating
  7. Mudguards
  8. Horns and alarms
  9. Rear vision mirrors and mirror surfaces
  10. Bonnet Securing
  11. Windscreen and windows
  12. Window tinting
  13. Windscreen wipers and washers
  14. Wheels and tyres
Vehicle Marking

Heavy vehicles must comply with the vehicle marking requirements detailed in the regulations.[14] The vehicle marking requirements include:

  1. Vehicle and engine identification numbers
  2. White or silver band on vehicles (applies when required)
  3. Left hand drive signs (for LHD vehicles)[15]
Vehicle Configuration

Heavy vehicles must comply with any vehicle configuration requirements that may apply to the vehicle as detailed in the regulations.[16] The vehicle configuration requirements include:

Axle Configuration

Generally heavy vehicles must have only one axle group or single axle towards the front of the vehicle and one axle group or single axle towards the rear of the vehicle.[17] A different requirement applies for articulated buses which provides for an additional axle on the second section of the articulated bus.[18] Heavy vehicles are permitted in the following configurations:

  • 1 axle group or single axle or
  • 2 axle groups, 2 single axles or 1 axle group and a single axle

Relationship Between Axles

The axles in an axle group are required to relate to each other through a load sharing suspension system. However this requirement does not apply to the twinsteer axle group.[19]

Lights and Reflectors

Heavy vehicles must comply with the requirements in relation to lights and reflectors detailed in the regulations.[20] The requirements in relation to lights and reflectors include:

  1. Adjustment of lights to prevent glare
  2. Headlight requirements
  3. Parking light requirements
  4. Daytime running lights
  5. Taillights
  6. Number plate lights
  7. Clearance lights
  8. Side marking lights
  9. Brake lights
  10. Reversing lights
  11. Direction indicator lights
  12. Fog lights
  13. Interior lights
  14. Reflectors
Braking Systems

Heavy vehicles must comply with the requirements in relation to braking systems detailed in the regulations.[21] The requirement in relation to braking systems include:

  1. Brake requirements
  2. Heavy motor vehicle braking systems
  3. Heavy trailer braking systems
Control of Emissions

Heavy vehicles must comply with the requirements in relation to emissions detailed in the regulations.[22] The requirements in relation to emissions include:

  1. Crank case gases and visible emissions
  2. Exhaust systems
  3. Noise emissions

Exemptions

Heavy vehicles can be exempt from vehicle standards under the following circumstances.

Vehicle on Road for Repairs

Heavy vehicle standards may not apply in circumstances in which repairs are required to the vehicle or its components. Under this exception the vehicle must not contain any goods and must be travelling in the most direct or convenient route. The road on which the vehicle is used must also not pose a safety risk.[23]

Vehicle on Road for Testing

Heavy vehicle standards may not apply in circumstances in which a vehicle is used on a road for testing or analysis of the vehicle by an approved vehicle examiner. [24] This includes testing of any components or equipment of the vehicle. Under this exception the vehicle must not have any passengers or goods unless they are required for the testing. The road on which the vehicle is used must also not pose a safety risk.[25]

Performance Based Standard (PBS) Vehicle Exemption

PBS is a scheme which allows vehicles to be assessed and approved for higher limits in relation to prescribed limits compared to standard vehicles. PBS approved vehicles are of general higher standard than standard vehicles, to meet the high standard requirements of the PBS scheme. Under the PBS scheme vehicles can be exempt from certain vehicle standards as stated in the PBS vehicle approval.[26]

Regulator Exemption by Notice

The NHVR has the power to exempt categories of heavy vehicles from complying with certain heavy vehicle standards.[27] This exemption is granted by a Commonwealth Gazette notice and is for a maximum period of 5 years.[28] However the NHVR can only exercise this discretion if one of the required conditions applies as stated in section 62 of the HVNL. The NHVR has the power to suspend, amend or cancel an exemption by notice.[29]

The driver is required to keep a copy of the exemption notice in their possession if this exemption is relied upon.[30]

Regulator Exemption by Permit

The NHVR has the power to grant an exemption from compliance with a heavy vehicle standard by an exemption permit.[31] An exemption granted under this section is for a maximum period of 3 years.[32] An application is required to be made in the approved form with the required fee. However, the NHVR can only exercise this discretion if one of the required conditions applies as stated in section 70 of the HVNL. The NHVR has the power to suspend, amend or cancel an exemption by permit.[33]

The driver is required to keep a copy of the exemption permit in their possession if this exemption is relied upon.[34]

Risk Controls

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

  1. Determining and communicating vehicle standard requirements to relevant persons
  2. Conducting pre-driving inspections to identify hazards and assess vehicle condition
  3. Implementing scheduled maintenance to ensure compliance to vehicle standards
  4. Reviewing and managing routes to identify and avoid any hazardous roads which may contribute to hazards or increased wear
  5. Utilising newer vehicles or vehicles with a higher standard of safety measures
  6. Implementing procedures to ensure vehicles comply with vehicle standards
  7. Conducting random inspections to verify compliance with vehicle standards
  8. Implementing procedures to ensure hazardous vehicles are not used
  9. Conducting regular training on the risks of poor vehicle standards and condition
  10. Conducting regular auditing of vehicle standard systems to identify any deficiencies and ensure continuous improvement

 


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

[2] ibid section 58.

[3] ibid section 60(1).

[4] ibid section 89.

[5] ibid section 90.

[6] ibid section 91.

[7] ibid section 92.

[8] ibid section 93.

[9] ibid section 85.

[10] ibid section 26A.

[11] Heavy Vehicle (Vehicle Standards) Regulation 2013 (Vic) schedule 1.

[12] ibid schedule 1 part 2.

[13] ibid schedule 2 part 2.

[14] ibid schedule 2 part 3.

[15] ibid schedule 2 sections 29-31.

[16] ibid schedule 2 part 4.

[17] ibid schedule 2 sections 32.

[18] ibid schedule 2 sections 32.

[19] ibid schedule 2 sections 33.

[20] ibid schedule 2 part 6.

[21] ibid schedule 2 part 7.

[22] ibid schedule 2 part 8.

[23] Heavy Vehicle National Law 2013 (Vic) section 60(2).

[24] ibid section 60(2).

[25] ibid section 60(2).

[26] ibid section 60(6).

[27] ibid section 61.

[28] ibid section 62.

[29] ibid sections 66, 67.

[30] ibid sections 82.

[31] ibid section 68.

[32] ibid section 68.

[33] ibid sections 76, 77.

[34] ibid sections 83.