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The ins and outs of heavy vehicle defects

14 February 2022

#Transport, Shipping & Logistics

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The ins and outs of heavy vehicle defects

When your heavy vehicle is unsafe, you are not only putting your own safety at risk but also the safety of other road users, the general public, the environment and road infrastructure. Therefore, it is crucial that you can identify heavy vehicle defects, understand how they are regulated by the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and ensure that your heavy vehicle (and those owned by your business) or those belonging to other parties in the chain of responsibility (CoR) are compliant.

In this article, we address some common questions about defect notices.

Compliance and enforcement

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is committed to reducing the risks associated with the use of defective and unsafe heavy vehicles on the road network.

It is an offence under the HVNL for a person to use, or permit to be used on a road, a heavy vehicle that contravenes the heavy vehicle standards applying to the vehicle, that is unsafe and/or that is in contravention of a defect notice. A heavy vehicle is unsafe if the condition of the vehicle, or any of its components or equipment, makes the use of the vehicle unsafe or endangers public safety.

What is a defective heavy vehicle?

A defective heavy vehicle is a vehicle that does not comply with the heavy vehicle standards or has a part that does not perform its intended function, or has deteriorated to an extent that it cannot be reasonably relied on to perform its intended function.

When a heavy vehicle is defective, a defect notice can be issued by officers authorised under the HVNL, including state and territory transport inspectors and police officers. Heavy vehicles will continue to be subject to inspections by authorised officers and police to determine compliance with the relevant heavy vehicle standards.

A defect notice may be issued to the registered operator of a heavy vehicle under the HVNL in relation to a vehicle that is found to be defective and its use on a road may or may not pose a safety risk. The defect notice will specify, among other things:

  • the faults identified
  • the period of time to have the faults repaired
  • any conditions of use the authorised officer (AO) considers appropriate for its continued use on a road.

The time within which you have to repair your vehicle will vary depending on the safety risk the continued use of the vehicle on the road poses. For faults that pose a minor safety risk, you might be given a number of days, whereas for faults that pose a major safety risk, the vehicle must be moved to the stated location in the specific manner described in the defect notice.

In more serious cases, the vehicle will need to be repaired immediately before it can be used on a road. If repairing the vehicle is not possible, it will need to be carried or towed.

The defect notice will contain information regarding:

  • vehicle’s identification
  • driver and/or operator details
  • day and time the notice was issued
  • details of the AO who conducted the inspection
  • type of inspection carried out
  • faults identified
  • type of inspection required to clear the defect notice
  • conditions regarding the ongoing use of the vehicle.

The defect notice will also contain specific information, including how and where to get the defect cleared, and contact details for information and assistance.

What are the different types of defect notices?

Under the HVNL, the regulator (or an authorised officer) can serve one of the three main categories of defect notices – self-clearing, minor and major.

1. Self-clearing defect notice

This notice applies in cases where a defective vehicle does not pose a safety risk or a number plate is obscured, defaced or otherwise not legible. Although the vehicle may continue to be used on the road, the faults must be repaired within the time specified in the defect notice.

2. Minor defect notice

This notice applies in cases where the safety risk is not imminent and serious. The vehicle may continue to be used on the road, as long as faults are repaired within the period specified in the notice. The defect notice may specify conditions about the vehicle’s continued use on the road after the defect notice is issued.

3. Major defect notice

This notice applies where there is an imminent and serious safety risk, and will specify conditions about the vehicle’s use on a road after the defect notice is issued.

What are defect labels?

A defect label may be affixed to a vehicle when a defect notice is issued. If a defect label is affixed to a vehicle, it must not be removed or defaced.

The defect label may only be removed by an authorised person.

How do I clear a defect notice?

A minor or major defect notice must be cleared according to the instructions in the defect notice, including:

  • the type of inspection required (for example, a partial or full inspection)
  • the type of facility where the inspection must be conducted
  • the type of approved or authorised person who must conduct the inspection.

Operators may have the necessary inspection conducted in any state or territory, provided the inspection is carried out by a suitably qualified person and according to the instructions on the defect notice.

For a self-clearing defect notice, there are no requirements to have the vehicle inspected.

Can I use a vehicle that has been issued a defect notice?

Self-clearing defect notice

A vehicle that has been issued a self-clearing defect notice can continue to be used on a road up to the due day indicated in the notice. However, if repairs have not been carried out within the time specified in the defect notice, the vehicle cannot continue to be used on a road from that time.

Minor defect notice

A vehicle that has been issued a minor defect notice can continue to be used on a road up to the due time indicated in the notice and its use is in accordance with any instructions or conditions stated in the defect notice. However, if repairs have not being carried out within the time specified in the defect notice, the vehicle cannot continue to be used on a road.

When the stated faults have been repaired and the vehicle is otherwise compliant with the required standards, the vehicle may be used on a road. However, all conditions of the defect notice must be complied with, including the requirement for the defect notice to be cleared.

Major defect notice

A vehicle issued with a major defect notice may only be used on a road subject to the specific conditions stated for the use of the vehicle and clearance of the defect notice.

For all defect notices – if you are unable to comply with the conditions of the defect notice (e.g. you need more time to have the vehicle repaired), you should contact the authority that issued the defect notice as soon as possible.

If you fail to comply with a defect notice, including non-compliance with any of the conditions stated in the notice, it will be considered an offence under the HVNL and may result in further action. If a defect notice is not cleared, a registration authority may initiate action. For example, the authority may suspend or cancel the vehicle’s registration.

Driver responsibilities

  • It is an offence under the HVNL to use a defective heavy vehicle on a road.
  • A driver must not use a heavy vehicle on a road in contravention of a defect notice.

If the driver or the person in charge of the vehicle is issued with a defect notice and they are not the owner or operator, they must give the owner or operator a copy of the defect notice as soon as practicable but not more than 14 days from when the notice was issued. The driver must also adhere to any conditions stated in the defect notice regarding the continued use of the vehicle.

Operator responsibilities

  • It is an offence under the HVNL to permit a person to use a defective heavy vehicle on a road.
  • An operator must not permit a heavy vehicle to be used on a road in contravention of a defect notice.
  • Vehicle operators must ensure that the stated faults are repaired within the period specified and that all conditions stated in the defect notice are met. The defect notice will include instructions for vehicle inspection and clearance of the defect notice.
  • The instructions are included on the defect notice and will generally include the inspection location and contact details.

The importance of regular vehicle servicing and maintenance

Remember, regular servicing and maintenance of your vehicle can:

  • improve the reliability of the vehicle
  • help reduce the risk of defects and lost productivity that can be caused
  • help you meet your legal obligation under the HVNL and ensure your vehicle is in a safe condition for use on the road.

Author: Nathan Cecil

  • This article was originally published in CoR Adviser. The article is © 2020 Portner Press Publishing Pty Ltd and has been reproduced with permission of Portner Press.

Disclaimer
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

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