Drivers of heavy vehicles are subject to stricter drink driving laws, with a lower Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit. Drivers of the following vehicles must have a BAC under 0.02:

  • Vehicles with a GVM or GCM over 13.9 tonnes
  • Coaches
  • Vehicles carrying dangerous goods or radioactive substances

All drink driving offences carry a licence disqualification. The exact penalties will depend on how far the person is over the limit and whether they have previous offences. The table below sets out the different penalties for drink driving. 

Category First Offence Previous offence within 5 years
Special Range PCA – 0.02-0.049 ·   $2200 fine

·   If you are given an infringement notice – 3 month licence suspension.

·   If the case is sent to court – 3-6 months disqualification

·   $3,300 fine

·   1-3 month disqualification period followed by participation in the interlock program for 12 months (or longer if the court orders)

Low Range PCA – 0.05 to 0.079 ·   $2,200 fine

·   If you are given an infringement notice – 3 month licence suspension.

·   If the case is sent to court – 3-6 months disqualification

·   $3,300 fine

·   1-3 month disqualification period followed by participation in the interlock program for 12 months (or longer if the court orders)

Mid Range PCA – 0.08 to 0.149 ·   $2,200 fine

·   9 months imprisonment

·   3-6 month disqualification period followed by participation in the interlock program for 12 months (or longer if the court orders)

·   $3,300 fine

·   12 months imprisonment

·   6 -9 months disqualification period followed by participation in the interlock program for 24 months (or longer if the court sees fit)

High Range PCA – 0.15+ ·   $3,300 fine

·   18 months imprisonment

·   6 -9 months disqualification period followed by participation in the interlock program for 24 months (or longer if the court sees fit)

·   $5,500 fine

·   2 years imprisonment

·   9-12 months disqualification followed by 4 years on the interlock program (or longer if the court sees fit)

 Since most heavy vehicle drivers are professional drivers who rely on their licence for work, the penalties for drink driving can have disastrous consequences.

If you can’t afford to be without your licence, there are ways to reduce the suspension or disqualification period:

Infringement Notice and Suspension: If you have been issued with an infringement notice and suspension, then you can appeal against the suspension. The case will be heard by a Local Court Magistrate who can reduce the length of the suspension to a period shorter than 3 months. In some cases, they might agree to waive the suspension entirely.

How Drink Drive Laws Apply Truck Drivers

 Going to Court: If your case has been sent to court – the magistrate will decide how long your licence is disqualified for. The law sets a range for how long the disqualification should be (e.g. between 3-6 months).

As a starting point, it is often possible to convince the Magistrate to impose the minimum disqualification period. However, if you are ‘convicted’ the Magistrate can’t impose a disqualification that is shorter than the prescribed minimum (even if they’d like to). 

The only way to get a shorter disqualification if you’re pleading guilty is to receive a ‘non-conviction’. This is where the Magistrate finds the person guilty but doesn’t attach a conviction. It is also often called a ‘section 10’ or ‘conditional release order’. The offence still goes on your record but there’s no further punishment. As a result, you are entitled to get your licence back straight away. 

It’s not always easy or possible to get a non-conviction for drink driving. The Magistrate will need to be satisfied that certain criteria are met, including how serious the offence is, the person’s record and any extenuating circumstances. 

The other factor that professional drivers should consider is how the interlock program could affect their work. Many drink driving offences have a ‘mandatory interlock order’ as part of the penalty. If you are subject to this order then you can only drive a vehicle that is fitted with an ‘interlock device’, i.e. a breathalyser installed in the vehicle that you need to blow into to start the vehicle. It is often impractical to install an interlock device in every vehicle that a professional driver uses.

The Magistrate can make an order exempting you from the interlock program. However, this can only be done when certain criteria are met, e.g. you don’t have access to a vehicle to install the device on. The criteria to qualify for an exemption are very limited. There is also a trade-off for being exempted from interlock, in that you will usually have to serve a longer disqualification period.

The most important thing to do if you are caught drink driving is to speak with a lawyer. There are lots of different options and things to consider. Everyone’s case is different and what will work for one person, won’t suit another. 

If you’re not sure how these laws apply to you or your situation, you should consult with an experienced drink driving lawyer. Our team at Ainsley Law are more than happy to chat with you.

Please call us today at 0416 224 601 or leave an enquiry.

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