Today’s correspondent has
… a question with regards to exemptions to NSW Road Rules 103 and 104, particularly with regards for exemptions to fire trucks to either Load Limit Signs and No Trucks signs.
My area (a bushfire prone area) has a number of roads with these restrictions in place as they are often winding and not ideal for trucks. These roads are also in some cases, emergency escape routes or routes that fire trucks would definitely need to travel on.
In an emergency (or just general travel), are there any cases where emergency vehicles are exempt from these restrictions? If not, are there any feasible load limit signs that the council could use to restrict heavy vehicles to a road without restricting fire trucks?
The Road Rules 2014 (NSW) rr 103 and 104 say:
103 LOAD LIMIT SIGNS
(1) A driver must not drive past a bridge load limit (gross mass) sign or gross load limit sign if the total of the gross mass (in tonnes) of the driver’s vehicle, and any vehicle connected to it, is more than the gross mass indicated by the sign.
(2) A driver must not drive past a bridge load limit (mass per axle group) sign if the mass (in tonnes) carried by an axle group of the driver’s vehicle, or any vehicle connected to it, is more than the mass indicated by the sign for the axle group.
Maximum penalty–20 penalty units.
(3) In this rule–
“vehicle” includes any load carried by the vehicle.
104 NO TRUCKS SIGNS
(1) A driver (except the driver of a bus) must not drive past a no trucks sign that has information on or with it indicating a mass if the GVM of the driver’s vehicle (or, if the driver is driving a combination, any vehicle in the combination) is more than that mass, unless the driver is permitted to drive the vehicle on a route passing the sign under another law of this jurisdiction.
(2) A driver (except the driver of a bus) must not drive past a no trucks sign that has information on or with it indicating a length if the length of the driver’s vehicle (or, if the driver is driving a combination, the length of the combination) is longer than that length, unless the driver is permitted to drive the vehicle on a route passing the sign under another law of this jurisdiction.
Maximum penalty–34 penalty units.
(3) The driver of a truck must not drive past a no trucks sign that has no information on or with it indicating a mass or length, unless the driver is permitted to drive the truck on a route passing the sign under another law of this jurisdiction.
Maximum penalty–20 penalty units.
(4) This rule does not apply to a driver if the destination of the driver lies beyond a no trucks sign and—
(a) there is no other route by which the driver’s vehicle could reach that destination, or
(b) any other route by which the driver’s vehicle could reach that destination would require the vehicle to pass another no trucks sign.
Rule 306 says
306 EXEMPTION FOR DRIVERS OF EMERGENCY VEHICLES
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.
Because rules 103 and 104 are a ‘provision of these Rules’ a fire brigade is not required to comply in an emergency. It is important to remember that the driver of a fire appliance may be exempt from the road rules but he or she is not exempt from the laws of physics. Therefore, if the appliance exceeds the load limit of the road or bridge it may be dangerous to proceed and in those circumstances, it may be the case that the driver is not taking reasonable care and it is not reasonable to grant an exemption from r 103. No matter what the emergency it cannot help to drive over and collapse a bridge.
With respect to r 104 as quoted above, r 104(4) says that the ‘no truck’ rule does not apply where the driver’s destination ‘lies beyond’ the ‘no trucks sign’ and there is no other way to get there. That would mean that a fire appliance proceeding to a fire, or for any other purpose, may travel past a no truck sign to the firefighter’s destination.
If there is an alternative route to the destination then they should take it, but if there is an emergency and the ‘no truck’ route is the fastest and most direct route the exemption in r 306 could be applied.
What would be the position of an RFSQld appliance in NSW? We have had several deployments of late to NSW and am very aware that a rural appliance under the control of a Qld RFS volunteer is not an emergency vehicle under the Qld version of the Road Rules.
In New South Wales the definition of ’emergency vehicle’ for the purposes of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) includes a vehicle driven by ‘…a member of a fire brigade (however referred to) or rescue service of … another State or territory, providing transport in the course of an emergency’. It follows that an RFS Queensland appliance that is being driven in NSW as part of an emergency response is an emergency vehicle for the purposes of the law in NSW.
We once had a response in Sydney Northern Beaches To House alight. The first arriving appliance collapsed a bridge over a creek. trapping the vehicle and crew. No other appliances could gain access. We had to relay pump to the site. consequently the operation took hours more than it should and the house was completely destroyed. Point of ignition was a single candle unattended
No exemption from the laws of physics.