Today’s correspondent

… 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.

CTP Insurance

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.