"Unfair" SE Freeway laws penalising drivers

Thursday December 05, 2019

Published by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell MP

Independent MP Troy Bell has slammed “unfair and unjust” State Government laws which have seen multiple South Australian drivers facing hefty fines and the loss of their driver’s licence.

Tough new laws designed to reduce speeding trucks and buses on a notorious stretch of the South Eastern Freeway have caught hundreds of drivers unaware as new vehicle classifications have come into effect.

Since the laws came into effect in May, all motor vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of more than 4.5 tonnes are restricted to strict speed and lane limits on the freeway and monitored by cameras.

Penalties include an automatic 6-month loss of licence and a company fine of $25 000.

The problem is that people who are driving utilities over 4.5 tonne are being caught by this change of legislation are losing their licence and facing massive fines.

“I know of five Mount Gambier business people who are going to lose their licences due to a State Government stuff-up,” he said.

“This is already impacting jobs and livelihoods across the Limestone Coast and beyond.

“The government has acknowledged the legislation they have introduced is too harsh, yet they won’t make amendments retrospective to recognise the people caught up in the aftermath.

“Some tradespeople drive Ford Utilities and under the new laws, these are classified as trucks and are subject to speed and lane restrictions.

Mount Gambier businessman Craig Medhurst was angry after his F-truck vehicle was caught by the changes on a trip to Alice Springs in July.

Returning home to Glencoe, he was sent a $1096 fine for travelling at 72km/hr in a 90km/hr zone near Crafers Hill, an offence which he was not aware also resulted in an automatic six-month suspension of his driver’s licence.

“The fine was for a ‘truck or bus’ exceeding the speed limit by 10km/hr and I thought I’m not driving a truck,” he said. “My registration papers said I’m a Ford utility, not a Ford truck.”

“I’m due to lose my licence on Sunday and then I’ve got even more fines to pay.

“It just beggars belief – our whole system is out of control. The fine is bad enough but the six months loss of licence borders on ridiculous. It’s the principle of it that stinks.

“I live in Glencoe and I do 1,000kms a week travelling to forest job sites maintaining machinery.  This is going to severely impact my business and customers businesses alike.

“Why should a 4WD recreational vehicle like this come under the same legislation as a B Double truck.”

Mr Medhurst said the signage on the freeway was blatantly inadequate and he had not personally received any correspondence as to the changes, despite the State Government claiming letters were sent out to every business affected. 

The Independent MP said he knew of one business owner who was facing the hefty fine.

Mr Bell said his electorate office was also fielding calls from people over the Victorian border who have also been affected by the changes.

“There’s a common theme to all the correspondence and people are telling me they received no notice about these laws coming into effect,” he said.

“If the Minister sent correspondence to all affected owners, how can he be sure they received it? why didn’t he send the correspondence as registered mail?”

“I understand the need for safety, but these laws are penalising the wrong people.

Mr Bell has worked with SA Best Frank Pangallo in the Upper House to rush amendments through both Houses of Parliament in the last sitting week of the year to address the anomaly but is disappointed the Government won’t make the new laws retrospective.”

“They have no problem making land tax aggregation legislation retrospective to bring in more revenue for the Government but won’t do anything to help those who are facing massive fines and are about to lose their licence.”

“The government needs to admit they’ve made a mistake and act immediately to fix the problem. ​​​​​​​