… found out recently that NSW RFS trucks are not registered at all, not even displaying number plates. This perplexed me quite a bit. Can’t seem to see if you have addressed it before, but curious about where and more so, why, this occurs?
It’s true, NSW RFS trucks aren’t required to be registered. Part 2 of the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) Schedule 1 lists a number of vehicles that are ‘not subject to registration provisions’. These include
- vehicles on tow trucks;
- vehicles used for work on farms;
- vehicles using roads or road related areas to a limited extent in context of primary production;
- certain trailers used for roadmaking and other public works;
- golf and green keeping vehicles;
- vehicles temporarily in New South Wales [so you don’t have to register your car in NSW if you are visiting from Victoria];
- vehicles registered under the interstate road Transport Act 1985 (Cth);
- trailers towed by motor vehicles registered in Victoria;
- vehicles used in connection with police work;
- lawn mowers;
- power-assisted pedal cycles;
- vehicles used by certain disabled persons;
- vehicles being driven to registration and associated places; and
- vehicles that are being inspected.
Also included in that list is ‘Vehicles Used to Fight Rural Fires’ (cl 12). To benefit from the exemption the vehicle must be:
(a) is attached to a rural fire brigade formed under the Rural Fires Act 1997 and has painted on it, or securely affixed to it, a sign clearly identifying the rural fire brigade to which it is attached, and
(b) is used to convey persons or equipment to or from the work of preventing, mitigating or suppressing fires in rural fire districts (including clearing fire breaks or removing inflammable material), and
(c) is travelling on the road or road related area for the purpose referred to in paragraph (b) or any of the following purposes:
(i) to attend a fire, incident or other emergency in accordance with the Rural Fires Act 1997,
(ii) to assist other emergency services organisations (within the meaning of the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989) at incidents and at emergencies under the control of those organisations,
(iii) to convey persons or equipment for the purpose of training those persons in relation to any of the purposes referred to in this paragraph,
(iv) for a purpose necessary or incidental to the service or repair of the vehicle,
(v) to perform any other functions of the NSW Rural Fire Service that the Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service or a fire control officer within the meaning of the Rural Fires Act 1997 may approve for the purposes of the exemption.
I can’t say ‘why’ this is the rule.
All vehicles must be insured under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 (NSW). You have to prove that you have paid for your compulsory third party insurance (green slip) when you register your car. What happens when the vehicle is not registered?
There is a scheme called the ‘Nominal Defendant’. The Nominal Defendant is funded by contributions for all the licensed CTP insurers. It provides a fund, and someone to sue, if a person injured in a motor vehicle accident can’t identify the driver at fault or if the vehicle that was at fault was unregistered and/or uninsured (ss 31-41).
If you drive your car unregistered and/or uninsured and you injure someone, that person can recover from the nominal defendant, and the nominal defendant can then try to recover from you (s 39). But that does not put the RFS driver at risk. Although the RFS driver is driving an unregistered vehicle, s 39(3) says:
The Nominal Defendant is not entitled to recover any amount under this section from the owner or driver of a motor vehicle which, at the relevant time, was not required to be registered or was exempt from registration or, if required to be registered, was not required to be insured under this Act.
In other words because an RFS appliance is not required to be registered, the nominal defendant has to pay any damages under the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 (NSW) but it cannot recover that amount from either the driver or the owner.
Can you explain why Fire Rescue NSW trucks and cars need to be registered if the NSW RFS dont
No, I can’t explain it. I assume it might go back to days when Bush Fire Brigades had to fund their own appliances but I don’t know that. I note that NSW SES and NSW Ambulance are also not mentioned in Schedule 1.
Andrew, If my memory serves me correctly, back in the mid to late nineties, the RTA issued fines for rural fire trucks being over weight, thus the NSW government with the rural fire department ( I think some of the volunteers where going to stop volunteering for the RFS. Putting more pressure on the paid fire fighters) came up with the idea that if the trucks are not registered, the they can’t be fined.
But that can’t be correct. Just because the vehicle doesn’t have to be registered doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be safe and meet the standards. See https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/9017/5.3.3-Annual-Inspection-of-Unregistered-Rural-Fire-Service-Vehicles-Trailers-and-Plant.pdf (which although old, appears to still be in force).
If your correspondent is an RFS member, then they may find this discussion on the (official) RFS Members’ page of interest. https://www.facebook.com/groups/nswrfsmembers/permalink/1481108115285452/
If they aren’t registered and their purpose is to fight fires, surely they cant be used on Sunday mornings each December to drive around the suburbs with Santa aboard, sounding their sirens endlessly to attract the local kids and really pee off the hardworking shiftworkers trying to sleep
Dear Scrooge, there are 6 activities in the list of permissible activities; firefighting is only one of them. Further some vehicles may be registered. But perhaps we can cancel Christmas and all community activities lest they upset sleeping shiftworkers, or volunteer firefighters who have spent all day at work before turning out to a fire. Or perhaps the fire fighters who give up their December Sunday’s to engage with their community, perhaps provide some reward to their families for the sacrifices they make, or the parents of kids who enjoy the community activity, are not ‘hardworking’?
This comment came by email:
Apart from RFS vehicles, vehicles temporarily in New South Wales that are:
If a Queensland appliance doesn’t need to be registered in Queensland, it doesn’t need to be registered in NSW either. A similar exemption applies in Queensland (Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2010 (Qld) r 105) so a NSW RFS truck can be driven in Queensland.
The correspondent who posed the question about the status of NSW RFS vehicles in Queensland and vice versa and who said “I suspect Qld rural fire appliances are covered under an authorization granted under reg.107 of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management—Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2010 (Qld) but can’t be sure”, has now written to say:
I have checked: the specific exemption for a rural fire or SES appliance is in sec.152B of the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990. The exemption does two things: it confirms an unregistered vehicle of the specified type can be used on a public road and that there is no requirement for there to be an authorisation to do so.
If a vehicle is not required to be registered, is it not the case that CTP insurance and hence the nominal defendant provision does not apply? For example, it is not possible to seek compensation from the rider of a bicycle or trail bike (not registrable).
As an aside, not all RFS vehicles are unregistered. For example, the white fleet, state mitigation support services and engineering.
CrashGuy that’s not correct. There are two issues here, one is registration and the other is compulsory third-party insurance. They are related as you cannot register a vehicle if you don’t have CTP insurance (Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) rr 10 and 36) but they are not the same.
If a vehicle is uninsured then compensation for injury to persons injured by the fault of the driver is provided by the Nominal Defendant (Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (NSW) s 2.29). Where a vehicle is uninsured the Nominal Defendant can recover any amount paid as compensation from the owner or driver of the uninsured vehicle (s 2.37(1)) but that rule does not apply if the vehicle is exempt from registration (s 2.37(3)). Further, a vehicle that is exempt from registration is also exempt from the need to have compulsory insurance (s 2.2).
Schedule 1 to the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) sets out many vehicles that are not required to be registered. They include vehicles on tow trucks, vehicles used for work on farms, vehicles using roads or road related areas to a limited extent in context of primary production, certain trailers used for roadmaking and other public works, golf and green keeping vehicles, vehicles temporarily in New South Wales, vehicles registered under the Interstate Road Transport Act 1985 (Cth), trailers towed by motor vehicles registered in Victoria, vehicles used to fight rural fires, vehicles used in connection with police work, lawn mowers, power-assisted pedal cycles, vehicles used by certain disabled persons, vehicles being driven to registration and associated places and vehicles that are being inspected. (Note however that for some, eg vehicles visiting NSW they have to be registered in another state or territory and will carry CTP insurance from that jurisdiction, so the nominal defendant won’t pick up that liability).
What follows, in context, is that an RFS appliance that is not required to be registered is also not required to carry CTP insurance. Any liability for injury caused to any person by the fault of the driver will be met by the Nominal Defendant. As the vehicle is exempt from registration the Nominal Defendant cannot look to the driver or owner to recover any amount paid out as compensation or costs.
The reason a bicycle is not covered by CTP insurance, or the nominal defendant, is that a bicycle is not a motor vehicle; that is ‘a vehicle that is built to be propelled by a motor that forms part of the vehicle’ (Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) s 4). A bicycle is not a ‘registrable vehicle’ (s 4) and so none of the legislation being discussed here applies.
A trail bike is a motor vehicle, so it must be registered and have a CTP insurance policy if it is to be used lawfully on a public street (Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW) r 60 ‘Registrable vehicles to comply with applicable vehicle standards’; Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) s 68 ‘Prohibition on using unregistered registrable vehicles’; Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (NSW) s 2.1 ‘Offence of using uninsured motor vehicle on road’). If an unregistered trail bike is used on a public road, and if a person (other than the rider) is injured due to the operation of that bike, then the injured person could claim against the nominal defendant (Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (NSW) s 2.29). Because that is not a vehicle that is exempt from registration, the nominal defendant could look to the owner and/or rider of that bike to repay any amount that the nominal defendant pays to the injured person (s 2.37(1)).
Does the nominal defendant only cover motor vehicles on roads and road related areas open and used by the public? If so, are there provisions for passengers in an RFS vehicle on other occasions such as fire trails and private lands – and would a road closed for an incident be considered not open to the public?
Yes the nominal defendant, and the motor accidents scheme, would only apply on a public road. Otherwise firefighters would seek compensation under the WORKERS COMPENSATION (BUSH FIRE, EMERGENCY AND RESCUE SERVICES) ACT 1987 and others would have to seek it under common law. But whatever legal rubric it falls under, the State of New South Wales will wear the responsibility. Even a road closed by the RFS would still be a road for the purposes of the motor accidents legislation (so if a driver ignored the road closed signs and injured his or her passenger, the passenger would still be entitled to compensation under the motor accidents scheme).
Noticed that no registration plates were on a convoy of about 6 RFS trucks going south along Hume Motorway near Campbelltown yesterday 31Dec 2019. Would the dependents of those firefighters who lost their lives in accidents involving RFS trucks have fast access to full payouts from the Nominal Defendant without any bureaucratic delays ? And will any lump sum payments and pensions be reduced by amounts by community fundraising specifically to help the bereaved?
Given the recency of these tragic events and we don’t know all the circumstances I don’t pretend or purport to talk about the facts or circumstances of the deaths of three firefighters during the ongoing fire emergency.
This post is about CTP insurance. CTP insurance ensures that anyone injured in a motor accident other than the driver at fault receives compensation. Since 2017 there have been no fault provisions (Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (NSW)) but the no fault compensation is not payable if the injured person is entitled to workers compensation. Rural Fire Service volunteers are eligible to workers compensation under the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987 (NSW). If an injured person can prove that the driver of a vehicle was negligent then they may get modified common law damages (Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 (NSW) Part 4).
Will the dependants’ get payment ‘without any bureaucratic delays?’ I cannot answer that as I don’t know what ‘bureaucratic delays’ means. The family will, like anyone, have to make a claim. A claim will have to be assessed against the law so that compensation to which they are entitled are paid. To make a claim may require proof of losses (eg income they would have earned, expenses incurred). If that’s ‘bureaucratic delays’ then yes I suppose they can be expected.