Heavy Vehicle Drink Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

There is a heavy emphasis for drivers of heavy vehicles not to drink and drive. While drink-driving is dangerous, collisions or accidents involving heavy vehicles

It cannot be overemphasized the need for the driver to take precautionary measures before taking the driver’s seat to avoid being penalized for driving a heavy vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

What is a vehicle as contemplated by the law?

As the law contemplates, it is important to know what a vehicle is. This is because you might be driving a motor vehicle that is not considered a vehicle in terms of driving violations.

Thus, Section 4 of the Road Transport Act 2013 specifically defines a vehicle as any vehicle on wheels other than a vehicle used on a railway or tramway. It includes any tracked vehicle that is not exclusively used on a railway or tramway or any other vehicle treated as such by the statutory rules.

What is a Heavy Vehicle?

A vehicle must have a minimum weight before being considered a heavy vehicle.

This is one of the pieces of information that one should not miss because the legal implications involved are not the same as other types of vehicles.

Section 4 of the Road Transport Act 2013 defines a “heavy vehicle” means a motor vehicle or trailer that has a GVM of more than 4.5 tonnes, and includes:

(a) A special-purpose vehicle that has such a GVM, and
(b) A passenger-carrying vehicle that has such GVM

Effects of Alcohol on Driving – Heavy vehicles

The NSW Transport Roads and Maritime Services outlined the effects of alcohol while driving. Alcohol is a depressant and reduces your ability to drive safely because of it:

  • Slows brain functions so that you can’t respond to situations, make decisions or react quickly
  • Reduces your ability to judge speed and distance.
  • Gives you false confidence that leads to taking risks
  • Makes it hard to do more than one thing at a time
  • Affects your sense of balance and coordination
  • Makes you sleepy

Drug driving – Heavy vehicles

For truck drivers, it’s tempting to take illegal stimulants to fight fatigue or depressants to sleep.

Offences and maximum penalties are the same for truck drivers as they are for car drivers, but courts are especially strict with truck drivers because:

  • Truck drivers often use illegal drugs because they’re under pressure to drive long distances in the shortest time possible, and so they turn to drugs to push themselves.

  • Drivers under the influence of drugs are very dangerous simply because of their size and speed.

The Penalty – Heavy vehicles

Penalties for breaking traffic laws include fines, disqualification from holding or applying for a licence, licence cancellation, refusal or suspension. You may be fined, disqualified from driving or even imprisoned for a very serious offence like drunk driving. (NSW Transport Roads and Maritime Service, Heavy Vehicle Driver Handbook 2012, p.112)

In imposing the penalty, courts will consider the following factors:

  • Blood alcohol concentration;
  • Whether the violation is a first or subsequent offence;
  • Whether the driver has had another major traffic violation within the last five years.

Under Section 10, of the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act, courts are given the discretion whether to record a conviction or not. It will be to the great advantage of the driver if the court does not record a conviction because he will not be disqualified from driving.

How to avoid

It is always a good practice to wait for at least 18 hours after a heavy drinking night to drive again. This is because it is only 18 hours after a heavy drink that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level will be back to zero.

If you have been charged with a traffic offence or are under Police investigation, you must seek legal advice.