‘own[s] and operate[s] a “private fire service” in Tasmania. Doing hazard reduction work for councils, landholders and forestry. As well as the help with bushfires. I own a fire truck it is fully equipped out. What are my rules relating to having red/blue lights?
My correspondent adds that the vehicle is a ‘registered fire tanker with TAS Roads’ but that the Tasmania Fire Service ‘don’t want me to have lights any more’.
The rules on lights that can be fitted to a vehicle in Tasmania are set out in the Vehicle and Traffic (Vehicle Standards) Regulations 2014 (Tas). Regulation 107 says:
(3) … a light vehicle must not be fitted with –
(a) a light that flashes; or
(b) a light or reflector that –
(i) shows a light other than a red, yellow or white light; or
(ii) shows a red light to the front; or
(iii) shows a white light to the rear; or
(iv) 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 any requirement of a third edition ADR –
(a) an exempt vehicle may be fitted with one or more flashing lights of any colour and one or more reflectors of any colour; and
(b) an emergency vehicle may be fitted with one or more flashing red or white lights…
The term ‘emergency vehicle includes ‘a vehicle built or permanently modified for firefighting purposes’ (r 107(1)). An ‘exempt vehicle’ includes ‘a vehicle operated, approved or authorised under the Fire Service Act 1979’ (r 5 and Part 15).
What follows is that if the appliance is ‘a vehicle built or permanently modified for firefighting purposes’ it may be fitted with flashing red or white lights (r 107(4)(b)). That does not require permission or authority from the Tasmania Fire Service. If the use of the vehicle has been ‘approved or authorised under the Fire Service Act 1979’ then it can fitted with any colour lights (r 107(4)(a)) that are part of that approval (eg red and blue).
As for the use of those lights, the Road Rules 2019 (Tas) are the Australian Road Rules as adopted in that state. Readers of this blog will be familiar that r 306 gives certain exemptions to the drivers of an emergency vehicle whilst rr 78 and 79 require other drivers to keep clear of, and give way to, emergency vehicles. For the purposes of those rules an emergency vehicle is a vehicle driven by an emergency worker in the course of his or her duty (Schedule 5). In Tasmania, relevantly, an emergency worker is a person ‘appointed or employed for the purposes of the Fire Service Act 1979’ (Schedule 6).
Given we are talking about a private company, and given the objection by TFS, I infer that neither my correspondent nor the company has been ‘appointed’ to any position for the purposes of the Fire Service Act 1979’ it follows that the appliance, being ‘a vehicle built or permanently modified for firefighting purposes’ is an emergency vehicle for the purposes of the Vehicle and Traffic (Vehicle Standards) Regulations 2014 (Tas) but it is not an emergency vehicle for the purposes of the Road Rules 2019 (Tas). If that is correct it can be fitted with flashing red or white lights (not blue) but the use of those lights whilst travelling on a public road has no legal meaning and would just confuse other drivers.
Remember this is a blog, not legal advice. This outcome is the result of reading the Road Rules 2019 (Tas) and the Vehicle and Traffic (Vehicle Standards) Regulations 2014 (Tas). No-one should rely on it as proper advice would require consideration of the vehicles registration status, details of any agreement with TFS that allow a person to assist with firefighting, the impact (if any) of Fire Service Act 1979 (Tas) s 37 ‘Salvage corps or fire brigade may not be constituted unless authorized’ etc. My correspondent (or anyone else) must remember the limitations of a discussion here and at least read the regulations him or herself and satisfy themselves how they apply and if they want definitive advice, obtain that from a Tasmanian practitioner who can consider those issues and confirm the facts; things that I, as a blog writer, cannot do.