I have been asked the following question from a Victorian volunteer firefighter:
Our small CFA rural brigade owns a “slip-on” firefighting unit comprising water tank, pump and hoses. This can be loaded onto a volunteer’s ute for fire suppression during the fire season. Many brigades in Victoria have these. This unit has been in use for many years, and was particularly useful on Black Saturday and its aftermath.
Our Brigade purchased a red/blue flashing light for the slip-on unit. We thought we were doing the right thing for safety reasons. The local CFA hierarchy now say we cannot legally use it. Have we done our dough?
Australia is meant to have national road rules, but like all good national schemes, there are in fact minor differences state to state; for Victoria, the Australian Road Rules are in the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic), a ‘regulation’ made under the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic). Rule 306 is the same across the country, it says:
A provision of these Rules does not apply to the driver of an emergency vehicle if-
(a) in the circumstances-
(i) the driver is taking reasonable care; and
(ii) it is reasonable that the rule should not apply; and
(b) if the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving-the vehicle is displaying a blue or red flashing light or sounding an alarm.
The difference across the States and Territories comes with the definition of what is an emergency vehicle. In Victoria, an emergency vehicle is:
(a) a vehicle operated by or on behalf of and under the control of—
(i) an ambulance service created by section 23 of the Ambulance Services Act 1986 or listed in Schedule 1 to that Act; or
(ii) an ambulance service created under a law in force in another State or in a Territory of the Commonwealth that the Minister, by notice in the Government Gazette, declares to be an ambulance service to which this paragraph applies;
(b) a vehicle operated as an ambulance by the Australian Defence Force;
(c) a fire service unit under the control of—
(i) the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board; or
(ii) the Department of Sustainability and Environment; or
(iii) the Country Fire Authority; or
(iv) the Australian Defence Force;
(ca) a vehicle being used to convey the Fire Services Commissioner for the purpose of enabling the Fire Services Commissioner to control the response to a major fire;
(d) a vehicle under control of the State Emergency Service;
(f) a vehicle being used to convey a member of the Australian Army engaged in connection with emergency ordnance disposal procedures;
(g) a vehicle under the control of the Shepparton Search and Rescue Squad Inc. or the Echuca and Moama Search and Rescue Squad Inc.;
That is a much more restricted list than say, NSW where an emergency vehicle is any vehicle driven by an emergency worker. Relevantly in the context of this question, the vehicle has to be ‘under the control of… the Country Fire Authority’. We are told that the unit in question is being operated by CFA volunteers, that the slip on unit is owned by the CFA brigade but the ute is privately owned. The red and blue lights go on the slip on unit and not the vehicle per se, but of course once the slip on unit is ‘slipped on’ the lights are part of the going vehicle.
If the vehicle is being used bona fide to fight fires, is operated by a CFA volunteer, with the blessing of the local CFA and the brigade captain, subject to direction and control of the incident controller (regardless of whether that is the local captain or a larger IMT) then it is a vehicle under the control of the CFA and is therefore an ‘emergency vehicle’.
That, however, is not the answer to the question. What lights can be fitted to a vehicle are set out in the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) (also a ‘regulation’ made under the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic)). The rules contain detailed provisions for the fitting of lights and reflectors. Clause 118 of Schedule 2 says (emphasis added):
(1) In this clause—
exempt vehicle means—
(a) a police vehicle; or
(b) an emergency vehicle; or
(c) a transport enforcement vehicle; or
(d) an Australian Protective Service vehicle; or
(e) an Australian Customs Service vehicle; or
(f) an Airservices Australia vehicle;
special use vehicle means—
(a) a vehicle built or fitted for use in hazardous situations on a road; or
(b) a bus fitted, before July 1999, with a sign telling road users that the bus carries children.
Special use vehicles to which paragraph (a) applies:
1 Tow trucks;
2 Vehicle breakdown service vehicles.
(2) A vehicle must not be fitted with a light or reflector not mentioned in the Vehicle Standards without the written approval of the Corporation.
(3) Subject to subclause (4), a vehicle must not be fitted with—
(a) a light that flashes;
(b) a light or reflector that—
(i) shows a red light to the front; or
(ii) shows a white light to the rear; or
(iii) is shaped or located in a way that reduces the effectiveness of a light or reflector that is required to be fitted to the vehicle under the Vehicle Standards.
(4) Despite subclause (3) and any requirement of a third edition ADR, an exempt vehicle may be fitted with any light or reflector, and a special use vehicle may be fi fitted with one or more flashing yellow lights.
Emergency vehicle has the same meaning as it has in the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) (see Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic), Schedule 2, clause 3).
So that tells us –
- The ute with a slip on unit is an emergency vehicle;
- An emergency vehicle is an exempt vehicle;
- An exempt vehicle may be fitted with any light or reflector…
But, the fact that it may be fitted with any light or reflector does not mean that it is at the whim of the owner or driver to install whatever light or reflector they wish. There is still clause 2 – which says:
A vehicle must not be fitted with a light or reflector not mentioned in the Vehicle Standards without the written approval of the Corporation.
The vehicle standards are those standards set out in Schedule 2 of the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic). The standards do not mention red and blue flashing lights. It follows that red and blue lights are ‘a light or reflector not mentioned in the Vehicle Standards’. No-one can affix red and blue flashing lights to their vehicle – not the ambulance service, not the police, and not the CFA – without ‘the written approval of the Corporation’. The Corporation (ie the Roads Corporation (Roads Safety Act 1986 (Vic) s 3) can give the owner of an exempt vehicle permission to have any light or reflector but that does not deny that such permission is needed. Presumably the Corporation has given that permission to the CFA, police etc so that their vehicles are lawfully equipped with the red and blue lights. I would assume, however, that the Corporation does not give approval for each fire appliance, ambulance or police car. The approval is probably given to the organisation, such as the CFA to fit the lights to vehicles approved or owned by them or registered as a police, fire or ambulance vehicle. However it is done, it would effectively allow the CFA to identify the vehicles to which they will attach the red and blue lights. Assuming that’s true, if the CFA hierarchy do not approve the fitting of the lights, then it remains the case that fitting them, and using them, is illegal.
If we return to the question asked, the red and blue lights in question are on the slip on unit but they become part of the car when the unit is on. In the absence of ‘written approval’ from the Corporation fitting those lights is illegal.
We can now go back to the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) r 306. If I am correct the ute with the slip on unit is an emergency vehicle. If it is being used for fire fighting purposes it is equipped with a red and blue flashing light, even if illegally equipped. Rule 306(b) says that one of the conditions for an exemption is
if the vehicle is a motor vehicle that is moving-the vehicle is displaying a blue or red flashing light or sounding an alarm.
If the vehicle is moving and is displaying the red and blue lights that condition is met; it does not say ‘legally’ displaying a blue or red light. Is it that simple? No, of course not. The other provision for an exemption is that it must be ‘reasonable that the rule should not apply’ and no court is going to accept that you should be granted an exemption under r 306 if you have illegally fitted red and blue lights and even more so if you have been told by the CFA not to do it.
Another view is that the lights are not fitted to the ute, they are fitted to a slip on unit and the slip on unit is not governed by the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) as it’s not a vehicle. That’s true of course and you can put lots of things on a ute that are not a vehicle and the fact that it’s on a ute does not mean the load has to comply with vehicle standards (though the way it is loaded has to). To give an analogy, you can put a fire appliance on a flat bed truck and that does not make the flat bed truck a fire appliance, and there is no breach of the law, as the flat bed truck is not equipped with red/blue lights, even if its load is; but it would not be lawful to turn the lights on and it would certainly not be reasonable to assume that the driver of the flat bed truck enjoyed any exemption under rule 306 if the lights or siren were on. A slip on unit is different, by putting it on a ute it in effect becomes part of the ute in a way that a fire appliance on a flat bed truck is not part of the truck, so a court would probably accept that once the slip on unit was on, it became part of the ute, but even if it did not, it would not justify using the red/blue lights while the unit was on the ute.
That’s a long way of saying ‘yes, you have done your dough’; unless you get ‘written approval’ from the Roads Corporation or approval from the CFA acting under any delegated, written authority that they may have to put lights on CFA emergency vehicles.
Well written, very clear Michael. I have heard similar debates within SES as well…..
“This can be loaded onto a volunteer’s ute for fire suppression during the fire season”
This statement has answered the writers question. A privately owned vehicle is NOT an emergency vehicle under any act and does not deserve the priviages or the protection of a bona-fide emergency vehicle.
“We thought we were doing the right thing for safety reasons”
If it was for “safety reasons” an amber light would have sufficed with greater visibility.
Companies like Proflic Systems and sales thru eBay and Gumtree have made it easy for volunteers to fit illegal items to thier privately owned vehicles for improper use. When I was a permanent officer in VICSES many volunteers had sirens and magnetic red beacons fitted to thier POVs and expected the regional office to bail them out in court.
Yes, slip on units are a valuable fire fighting tool. Shire rangers that are gazetted Fire Control Officers inder the Bush Fire Act 1954 in regional WA have them on their vehicles. Town of Port Hedland Ranger Services have two dedicated fire units. These units are fitted with red/blue and amber lights under the state act
But not for a volunteer with good intentions. Go buy an amber lense for your slip on and wear the cost
Actually a privately owned vehicle IS or can be an emergency vehicle under at least Victoria and NSW legislation; that has been discussed in plenty of blogs. In Victoria a vehicle under the control of the CFA is an emergency vehicle and as noted in this post, if it’s being driven by a CFA volunteer, used in firefighting at the direction of the IC it’s an ’emergency vehicle’. In NSW if it’s being used by an emergency worker, such as an RFS volunteer, as part of their duties, it’s an emergency vehicle. But don’t be mislead as to what that means; as this post shows it doesn’t mean you can put red/blue beacons or a siren on it and if it doesn’t have red/blue lights and/or a siren there is no exemption under r 306 so you can’t drive except in accordance with the road rules. But as an emergency vehicle you can get other exemptions that don’t require red/blues such as parking (r 307) or using mobile phones (r 300) both discussed in other posts.
The confusion is what being an emergency vehicle might mean; it does NOT mean ‘able to fitted with red/blues or drive in any way contrary to the road rules’. Once we understand that, that you can have an emergency vehicle with no markings, no lights, but still an emergency vehicle you can see that private vehicles do fit the definition. The trick to understanding a statute is to read the words and believe what they say and based on the wording in both Victoria and NSW a private vehicle CAN be an emergency vehicle but without red/blues it doesn’t mean much and the red/blues are not permitted on a private vehicle unless authorised by the relevant roads authority.
You’re right however that police vehicles are treated as a separate category so I should not have mentioned police cars/vehicles in my original post.
I beg to differ on your interpretation of the defination of private vehicle being an emergency vehicle.
If a vehicle is commanderred in the course of a delared emergency then that is a different matter, however, a volunteer sitting in his own private ute with a slip on is clearly not.
Brigade or unit vehicles owned by individual SES or Fire Service untis fall under that catergory, as first aid vehicle owned by St John holdings are all registered as “private and community use” vehicles as are REGISTERED private fire service units. Joe Citizens toyota ute with no markings is not. A police vehicle is a seperate catergory. You should know this.
If your assessment is the case, you just have given every unstable person card blanche to run around in his own “emergency vehicle”.
The state authorities as you clearly have mentioned, at the ministers leave can grant this status thru delegated authority, not a blog entry.
i have infringed a member of the fire brigade for parking her private vehicle for parking on a footpath. Her defence was “Im checking hyrdant points” My reply was “You are not in uniform or in an authorised vehicle,” The modified penality stood. It was just as easy to park on the side of the carriageway instead of a footpath. Her own vehicle was not used in an emergency as defined under the WA statues therefore the offence was proven.
A question id ask the orginating authour is how are the lights activated on the slip on?
Geoff, you are free to disagree, of course, but where do you say my interpretation of the Acts and the regulations, that is the law, is wrong? You may not like my interpretation but what I have given you is what the legislation says.
As I’ve noted however it doesn’t mean much. You may have infringed a fire fighter but that doesn’t prove anything. If they paid the ticket then the issue wasn’t tested; if they took the matter to court then they may not have argued the point and, as I’ve noted, the fact that its an emergency vehicle is only one step, it must also be ‘reasonable’ that any exemption applies and on the facts you’ve given, you say it was not ‘reasonable’ in which case there is no exemption
As I’ve also noted, just because a vehicle is an emergency vehicle does not mean it can be fitted with red/blue lights and/or a siren. That is a separate question.
You’re quite right that my blog post cannot give any authority to anyone. The starting point is the legislation, passed by Parliament, then the regulations approved by the Parliament and then any delegated authority acting under the law. I’ve cited the Act and Regulations and you have not suggested that my interpretation of those are wrong, so I stand by my opinion as expressed in this post but that does not mean the consequences are as dire as you suggest.
Very interesting post and no doubt discussed in heated debates around the country especially among the volunteer community.
Our organisation provides a first aid response and pre hospital care service to the Homeless in the Sydney City area. Sick and injured patients are referred by welfare agencies such as The Salavation Army, Exodus Foundation, St Vincent de Paul as well as other homeless.
We arrive on scene within a couple of minutes and can quickly assess a patient determining if an Ambulance is really required or can the patient be handled out of the hospital environment.
I should add that all volunteer Medics are trained up to Emergency Medical Technician and follow Australian Resus Council guidelines on treatment.
Our vehicle is privately owned however has Community Medic markings and uses an AMBER led array on one of the visors to improve awareness when operating on a street.
My questions to the readers is would you consider this type of service to be an emergency vehicle under NSW law and our medics classed as ’emergency workers’ under this Act. I cannot seem to find the RMS classification on what is and what is not an emergency worker.
In NSW an emergency worker is:
It refers to ‘the’ (not ‘an’) Ambulance Service and the use of capitals suggests a proper noun; it’s the Ambulance Service of NSW not any other service. What follows is that if you don’t have specific approval from the Roads and Maritime Authority then your staff are not emergency workers, and the vehicle is not an emergency vehicle.
I also note that the Health Services Act 1997 (NSW) s 67E says:
I have made an FOI application to the Department of Health who tell me that no approvals have been given under this section.
I assume if your medics are volunteers you are not providing this service ‘for fee or reward’ but if your service is being paid then there may be breach of this section. I wonder how the many private ambulance services are springing up when they appear to be conducting ‘operations similar to the operations’ of the Ambulance Service of NSW.
Firstly thank you for your reply.
I have read the HSA and as a volunteer organisation we do not receive payment for services. I have always been curious however about the ‘reward’ component and its definition. For instance members may be rewarded in the form of job satisfaction or the organisation may receive a grant; a reward based on the services we provide.
I agree with your last paragraph and Section 1b is of particular interest to me. From memory it is further defined somewhere that this is providing a service like that or similar to the Ambulance Service NSW.
If this were the case then every volunteer first aider might be considred in breach of this act. From the first aider at a sporting event to volunteer medics with such organisations as Community Medics, Community First Aid, Unimed etc. These volunteers provide pre hospital care which could be considered a service ‘similar’ to the Ambulance Service of NSW.
Imagine the demand on Ambulance rescources when every outdoor event held in a council area requires ‘First Aid’ to be on site.
Personally I believe it is time for an overhaul of the Health Act NSW in relation to provision of services by first aid organisations.
I agree that the reward component, which is different to a fee (else they wouldn’t use the two words) is unclear; does an organisation get a reward by being allowed to do what they want to do? As for the second part, providing a service like the service provided by the Director General it does mean an service like the Ambulance Service of NSW as that is the service the DG provides. The key question is what is the essential nature of that service. Is it providing an emergency service to anyone that calls? If so that would be a point of distinction with say private event first aid providers and on site providers, but it would seem your service is very much like that. Perhaps the essential aspect of the ambulance service is the transport to hospital which again would be a point of distinction with services, including yours, that don’t do that but if that was the essential ‘aspect’ of NSW Ambulance, the first provision, prohibiting transport for fee or reward, becomes meaningless.
It’s always seemed to me that s 67E or its predecessors just get copied from Act to Act without any real thought about the changing nature of paramedic practice, particularly now that paramedics are university qualified and will, I”m sure, begin to demand the right to work outside the state ambulance service.
As you’ve noted the demand on NSW Ambulance to provide all the services that others now provide would be unmanageable which may explain why, as far as I can tell, no action is ever taken under this section; but I’m sure it will be when there’s an adverse patient outcome and the minister is asked what he or she is going to do about it.
It was interesting to read the different rules in different states, and something I will keep in mind.
I would also point out that when the original question was posed, by the Victorian Firefighter, they sighted reasons of safety. Which, though this is not a legal argument, it is always disturbing when safety and legal requirements are brought into conflict. As often is the case, most bush firefighting vehicles use their flashing lights not for Rule 306, but rather so they can be easily seen, even in dense smoke and undergrowth, or during the night.
Having flashing lights is therefore an essential safety feature, and as one astute commentor mentioned. The Victorian firefighter could choose to fix amber lights, or red only light, for this purpose, if so authorised.
It may be ‘disturbing when safety and legal requirements are brought into conflict’ but equally we can’t everyone be judge in their own cause, and decide that they need to do something in the interest of safety and therefore can ignore the law. If anyone who thought it was necessary for safety to fix red/blues to their car was allowed to do so, then the reputation of the ‘blue light’ emergency services would be diminished because of the ‘cowboys’ on the road with red/blue lights. Certainly amber lights would seem to be an option (I say without actually looking at the road rules to confirm that).
In relation to the issue of a sole purpose community group that provides a service to a “closed” group of person in our community is not a legitimate emergency service. If contracted to provide services to another organisation it is done for “fee or reward”.
In Victoria there are Ambulance Victoria sponsored and approved “CERT” Community Emergency Response Teams, that provide basic life support and limited advanced life support services. They co-respond to emergencies mainly in regional and rural areas, however there is an indigious unit at Lake Eryes. These CERT units have clinical protocols as set down by Ambulance Victoria and training is overseed by AV and limited funding is provided by the Department of Human Services. It should be noted that the vehicles are marked up in BPG (British Pharacutical Green) and have amber lights. Although volunteers the CERT Unit gets paid a call out fee and recieves a grand for consumables used.
In WA St John Ambulance Australia – WA Ambulance Service train first responder teams and co-respond them to calls from SJA Ops in Belmont. City of Stirling community Safety Security Patrol was doing this for no fee or reward. The service then handed back accreditation to SJA due to a massive amount of jobs being allocated and taking the service away from its core function. City of Stirling vehicles used amber warning lights althought it could have been well argued legally that they were a “Priority 2 response” service allowing red lights and a audible warning devise to be fitted.
A First Aid Service is just what it is. Provision of basic and advanced FIRST AID only. Not providing an ambulance service or the duties as one.
What is getting lost here is the imaginary line drawn in the sand of juridictional tasking.
Not so sure how that relates to this particular post…
In NSW for example, ‘”ambulance services” means services relating to the work of rendering first aid to, and the transport of, sick and injured persons.’ (Health Services Act 1997 (NSW) Definitions) so a ‘first aid service’ is clearly providing an ‘ambulance service’. The lack of legal distinction between first aid and other pre hospital services that we might want to distinguish, whether to call them ‘ambulance’ or ‘paramedic’ is something we hope national registration of paramedics may resolve.
I’m sorry to say this, but I honestly can’t understand what you’re trying to say. The logical flow of your comment seems disjointed.
The fitting of amber lighting to community firstaid responders is not an indication of their status as emergency workers. As it may be the pollicy of St John’s to fit amber lights; even though authorised, under the road rules, by the ‘Authority’ as emergency workers. Not all emergency workers need, or require, blue/red lights.
Having the appropriate lights, or decal markings, is not a pre-requisite to the vehicle being classified as an emergency vehicle. Each of the states have made clear what they consider an emergency vehicle, within the respective road rules. Some states require that vehicle be owned by, or under the control of, an emergency service. In other states, like NSW, a vehicle is defined only because of the person driving it. In this sense, there is no difference between a formally marked vehicle, a privately owned vehicle, or a commandered civilian vehicle. As long as it is in the course of duty and “reasonable that the exemption apply”.
I note from your previous post that you are a parking inspector, (or police officer). That being the case it may be prudent to confirm what is, or is not, an emergency vehicle in your state. As such vehicles may be subject to parking exemptions according to rule 307.
At the end of the day a vehicle displays emergency lights and sirens so that it can be driven exempt from certain (but not all) road rules. These are limited to exceeding the speed limit when safe and not stopping at designated stop signs and red lights. That’s about it. They still have to stop at pedestrian crossings and aren’t legally entitled to drive the wrong side of a keep left sign or through a safety zone at a tram stop although you will see the MFB do that every day. Only police are exempt from all road rules. Ultimately red and blue lights come under the jurisdiction of police. The vehicle has to be owned by a recognised authority. Private vehicles cannot be registered as emergency vehicles and are indeed registered privately. A CFA emergency vehicle has to be marked as a fire vehicle. It can only be red or white. It has to display the authority logo. It has to have a radio and designated call sign. It has to be registered as a fire vehicle for insurance, police and camera detection purposes. A private vehicle can be used as a slip on but it is not exempt from road rules and it cannot display warning devices. A permit can be obtained from police to display an amber light. An amber light cannot be used for emergency purposes. It is for safety whilst stationary. To allow personnel to fit their own red and blue ight bars to private vehicles without reference to an authority would allow any firefighter to convert his or her own vehicle into an emergency vehicle at whim. This vehicle is not registered as a fire fighting unit and therefore the question of third party insurance for a vehicle which is not registered as an emergency vehicle comes into play. What’s the big deal with the lights anyway? It is being used as a private vehicle with a tank on the back. Leave it at that.
I’m afraid I just can’t agree with Joe’s comments. The trick to understanding statute law is to read the words of the statute and believe them, they say what they say but not necessarily what others think they mean. The police, the CFA and others may all implement policies and give directions to try and ensure compliance but that doesn’t mean they’ve got the law correct. Let us look again at the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic). An emergency vehicle is:
The definition simply does not say that ‘The vehicle has to be owned by a recognised authority’; it says the vehicle has to be ‘operated by or on behalf of and under the control of’ a listed authority. That is much broader than being ‘owned’ and of course the emergency services hire and borrow vehicles and probably lease some too. It says nothing about how it is registered. A bus can be an emergency vehicle if it’s being used by the CFA to transport a crew to a fire even if it’s hired from hertz and registered as a bus!
The driver of an emergency vehicle that is equipped with red/blue lights and a siren is, when it is reasonable and provided the driver is taking reasonable care, exempt from ALL the rules in the Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) (see s 306). These rules include speed limits (ss 20-25); making turns (ss 26-42); obeying and giving way at traffic lights (ss 56-66); giving way generally (ss 67-87) including pedestrian crossings and shared zones (ss 80-83); complying with traffic signs and road markings (ss 88-108); driving on roundabouts (ss 109-119); behaviour at level crossings (ss 120-124A); keeping left, overtaking and other rules (ss 125-164A) including driving in a safety zone (s 162) and parking (ss 165-213).
The exemption applies, remember only if it is reasonable that it applies, that the driver was taking reasonable care and they had red/blue lights and/or a siren. It is not correct that the exemption is ‘limited to exceeding the speed limit when safe and not stopping at designated stop signs and red lights. That’s about it. They still have to stop at pedestrian crossings and aren’t legally entitled to drive the wrong side of a keep left sign or through a safety zone at a tram stop…” It might be that the CFA have said that they don’t want their drivers to ignore those rules and that would be evidence that it is not reasonable that the exemption should apply. But if the police issued a ticket the driver would be entitled to go to court and challenge the ticket and it would be the magistrate who would decide whether the exemption should apply. It is not up to the police.
It is NOT true that ‘Only police are exempt from all road rules.’ Section 305 says
Section 306 says
There is no difference; the exemption is the same. The difference is s 305(2) which in some circumstances allows the exemption to police even if they are not displaying the red/blue lights or sounding the siren. The police have no more authority than drivers for the MFB, the CFA or the other agencies listed in the definition of emergency vehicle.
As I said in the post to which this comment relates, just because a vehicle is an emergency vehicle that is it is being ‘operated by or on behalf of and under the control of’ a listed authority DOES NOT mean that red/blue lights or a siren can be fitted. The issue of who can put those lights is set out in the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic). As I said ‘No-one can affix red and blue flashing lights to their vehicle – not the ambulance service, not the police, and not the CFA – without ‘the written approval of the Corporation’ and the Corporation is the Roads Corporation NOT the police so in no way do ‘red and blue lights come under the jurisdiction of police’ but they have to make the first call, if there is an issue, as to whether they think s 306 applies, but again, just because they think the exemption shouldn’t apply they are not the final judge of the matter, that is why we have courts and ‘judges’.
I can see nothing in the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 (Vic) that allow the police, rather than the Corporation, to permit the use of a yellow (or amber) light. As I’ve said before, concluding that a vehicle is an ‘emergency vehicle’ does NOT mean that it can have emergency lights fitted; they are different issues. As I said in the post, above
Regardless of its use the compulsory third party insurance will not be an issue. Third party insurance cannot be cancelled or avoided by the insurer. It is there to ensure that everyone injured in a motor vehicle accident receives compensation regardless of how the vehicle is being used, eg it applies even if the vehicle is stolen. That may not be true for the vehicles comprehensive insurance but remember the fact that a vehicle is an emergency vehicle does not give any exemption so if you’re a CFA captain, driving your car to a fire, you get no exemption from the road rules, but when you get there, park in a no-standing zone and walk to the fire truck, you are exempt from the parking rules as that exemption does not require lights or siren.
The critical thing to do, if you think I’m wrong, is to go to the law and see what it says. As a lawyer I’m trying to give insight into the letter of the law which has to be translated by the executive arm of government so the police may have advised the CFA that they will never accept that it is reasonable not to give way at a pedestrian crossing (and I think that wouldn’t be an unreasonable attitude) but that’s just them saying how they see the law; if they issue a ticket that does not determine guilt, you go to court and cite the law – and see what the magistrate says.
After reading Joe’s response, I thought to reply. However, considering the above there was hardly need. I totally agree will Michael.
There is one aspect in which Joe is correct: “Emergency vehicles are to give way to pedestrians”. But only because pedestrians have no responsibility to give way to an emergency vehicle (though the exemption still applies). It is only other vehicles that are required to do so. Therefore, an emergency or police driver ought to exercise extra caution when approaching pedestrian crossings.
As an aside, and perhaps, more directly related to the topic. I did find a reference to the following document, regarding flashing lights on vehicles in NSW.
Click to access vsi_08_flashing_lights_and_sirens_rev_4_1__nov_2010.pdf
If this information provided by the RMS (RTA) is correct. Than an unauthorised emergency vehicle (such as a private ute with slipon or trailer) would be permited to display a red flashing signal. It would not be permited to carry a red/blue flashing light combination, or a siren. Futhermore, no authorisation is required for any road user to mount amber flashing lights (provided they are used correctly).
If either of these options are avaliable to firefighters in Victoria. Then one of these alternatives may resolve the issue wish your original questioner was experiencing.
it is the case that you don’t need approval to put an amber light on a vehicle in NSW but I couldn’t find a similar provision in NSW.
I agree with giving way to pedestrians and in an earlier post or comment I think I made the argument that it could never be reasonable for the exception in s 306 to apply to justify running someone over, or approaching a crossing at such a speed you couldn’t stop if someone did step out.
as for the red lights, it’s interesting that the RTA guide refers to ’emergency worker’ is a person (or one of a class of persons) approved by the RTA’ they are not using the same definition as the Road Rules so for the purposes of the exceptions its the road rules definition that applies, but for the permission to put on a red light its the Roads and Maritime Authority (or some such title that they now have that is relevant).
Yes I did notice that the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) (ex-RTA) definition was a little different. From a legal perspective, this would seem to authorise the use of a red beacon, on any vehicle, for it’s duration of use as an emergency vehicle. However, if the vehicle ever ceased to be an emergency vehicle. The light, I believe, would become an illegal vehicle modification.
Mind you. There are a lot of “Bush Lawyers” in the NSW RFS, who will hasten to say that this is, “strictly illegal”. Indeed, it is impractical, and against our SOP’s to respond without a siren, which could not be added, even to such a vehicle. The practicality of this red flashing light would only be for visbility when operating on the fireground. Which would most likely not be on a road, or ‘road related area’… Futhermore, we are subject to the authority of our officers. I have therefore never seen this done or authorised by an officer.
I am just curious as to what the RMS would classify as being, “Other emergency vehicles not referenced above…”.
In my post, before your last comment I wrote “It is the case that you don’t need approval to put an amber light on a vehicle in NSW but I couldn’t find a similar provision in NSW” which of course doesn’t make any sense at all, and now I’m not sure what I meant; sorry, everyone, for that.
The RTA (as it was) guidelines with respect to red flashing lights say:
In addition to the vehicles listed above, red flashing lights must only be fitted to:…
• Other emergency vehicles not referenced above that are driven by an emergency worker in the
course of their duties, where an ‘emergency worker’ is a person (or one of a class of persons)
approved by the RTA.”
My interpretation would be that “Other emergency vehicles not referenced above…” would mean an emergency vehicle as defined in the Road Rules 2008 (NSW) (that is any vehicle driven by an emergency worker (again as defined in the Road Rules) in the course of their duties) subject to this; to fit a red light the vehicle must be driven by “a person (or one of a class of persons) approved by the RTA” for that purpose.
To give an example; a member of the RFS is an emergency worker so his or her private vehicle is an emergency vehicle if being driven in the course of his or her duties. It is not however an “Operational fire brigade vehicle [or] …accredited NSW Rural Fire Service vehicle” so it cannot be fitted with “BLUE, OR BLUE AND RED” lights. It is however, and by virtue of the definition of emergency vehicle and emergency worker in the Road Rules 2008 (NSW) an “emergency vehicle”. Because it is not listed in the paragraph on “BLUE, OR BLUE AND RED” lights, it is an “… emergency vehicle not referenced above…” An “… emergency vehicle not referenced above…” can only be fitted with a red light if it is being driven by “a person (or one of a class of persons) approved by the RTA.” What follows is that the RFS volunteer, driving their private car as part of their RFS duties, is driving an emergency vehicle but they can only have a red light on it if they have approval from the RTA for that purpose.
Again I don’t think you can fit red/blue lights to a vehicle without approval from the appropriate roads (or in some states, police) authorities.
Michael, This argument has been tossed around by a few members of our organisation, NSWVRA.
The RMS and STATE RESCUE BOARD, seem to have conflicting definitions of a “rescue ” vehicle.
The following is advice that has been passed to members;-
“The State Emergency and Rescue Management Act (SERM) 1989 defines a “rescue vehicle” to mean a vehicle that is designed, adapted or equipped for use in rescue work, and is clearly marked with the word “RESCUE” and is fitted with warning devices such as flashing lights or a siren or both. This act further states that flashing lights and sirens or blue or red flashing lights must only be used by accredited rescue units.”
RMS per your post.
Question is “who rules the roost??”
First, what you say, the information that has been passed to members is not quite correct. The definitions are set out in legislation. The State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW) s 53(1A) says ‘It is an offence for a person who is not a member of a rescue unit accredited under this Division to display, drive or operate a rescue vehicle’. For the purposes of that section a rescue vehicle is ‘a vehicle that is designed, adapted or equipped for use in rescue work and: (a) is clearly marked with the word “Rescue”, or (b) is fitted with warning devices, such as flashing lights or a siren, or both’ (s 52(1)). The document that my correspondent has quoted says ‘a rescue vehicle” is a vehicle ‘… clearly marked with the word “RESCUE” and is fitted with warning devices such as flashing lights or a siren or both’ (emphasis added). As noted the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW) says that the vehicle has to be marked with ‘Rescue’ OR (not and) fitted with red/blue lights. The definition in the Act is not very helpful.
Rescue means ‘the safe removal of persons or domestic animals from actual or threatened danger of physical harm’ (s 3). Consider a fire appliance that is ‘designed, adapted or equipped for use…’ for fighting fires which includes safely getting people out of the burning building. Those vehicles are equipped with red/blue lights but they don’t need approval from the State Rescue Board for those fire fighting duties. Agencies, like NSW Fire and Rescue, the State Emergency Service, the Rural Fire Service and the Ambulance Service of NSW do not need SRB approval to perform their statutory duties (see State Rescue Policy (3d ed, 2015), [1.18]).
The claim ‘that flashing lights and sirens or blue or red flashing lights must only be used by accredited rescue units’ is not contained in the road and vehicle regulations nor is it contained in the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW). I it is contained in the State Rescue Board’s Rescue Vehicle Drivers Directive (v 1 – January 2013) which refers to the Vehicle standards information: Flashing lights and sirens (Rev 4.1, 24 November 2010). The Vehicle standards information lists all the vehicles that can use red/blue lights which includes, but is not only, ‘Vehicles used by an accredited rescue unit as defined in the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989’.
A service like the Ambulance Service of NSW operate with red/blue flashing lights and they don’t need SRB approval so the advice that ‘This act further states that flashing lights and sirens or blue or red flashing lights must only be used by accredited rescue units’ is clearly wrong. The Act does not say what it is claimed to say, and the advice, if read literraly, is wrong.
But the definitions must be read in context. The SRB is talking about accredited rescue units not NSWF&R and RFS fire brigades, the ambulance service or the SES. In that context the SRB is correct that only an accredited rescue unit can use red/blue lights given the definition of ‘rescue vehicle’.
The Road Rules 2014 (NSW) don’t define a ‘rescue’ vehicle, they define ‘emergency vehicle’. An emergency vehicle is a vehicle driven by an emergency worker. An emergency worker includes ‘a member of a fire or rescue service operated by a NSW Government agency, a member of the State Emergency Service or a member of a fire brigade (however referred to) or rescue service of the Commonwealth or another State or territory, providing transport in the course of an emergency’ (r 4 and Dictionary, definition of ‘emergency worker’). Prima facie that does not include the VRA that is not a NSW Government agency, thought it could be argued that the State Rescue Board is a government agency and the VRA is operating ‘by’ them. On that argument, members of the VRA are emergency workers.
The alternative is that the definition of emergency worker also includes ‘a person (or a person belonging to a class of persons) approved by the Authority’. The answer to which rule applies really depends on the attitude of the RMS. Have they issued an approval to the VRA saying all their drivers are emergency workers? If not they must accept that the VRA when acting with the authority of the State Rescue Board are a ‘rescue service operated by a NSW Government agency’, that agency being the SRB.
The State Rescue Policy says (at [2.07] “State Rescue Board accredited Volunteer Rescue Units may fit flashing lights to their rescue vehicles and operate them in accordance with the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulations 2007 and NSW Vehicle Standards Information Bulletins.”
The Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulations 2007 has a different definition of ‘emergency vehicle’. For that regulation, an emergency vehicle includes ‘a mines rescue or other rescue vehicle’ (r 124(4)(d)) which would have to include a vehicle operated by an accredited VRA rescue unit.
What we can see form this is that the State Rescue Policy [2.07] is consistent with the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulations 2007 (NSW) r 124 so yes, accredited VRA units can have flashing warning lights and non- accredited rescue units cannot use flashing warning lights, but other emergency services can. To enjoy the benefits of the exemption under the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) the police, or a court, would have to accept that the accredited VRA rescue units are ‘operated by a NSW Government agency’ (ie the State Rescue Board) or there has to be an approval issued by RMS to define VRA members as emergency workers.
So who rules the roost? Each have their own area. The SRB policy document on road rules etc has to be consistent with the road rules, the SRB can’t grant waive the application of the road transport legislation. They are trying to give effect to that legislation. Looking at the policy and the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act that is what is happening.