UNDETERRED: Peter Lewis was back on the road helping farmers just days after the $10,000 penalty.
UNDETERRED: Peter Lewis was back on the road helping farmers just days after the $10,000 penalty.

Fined hay run hero hits back

AIRLIE Beach-based driver Peter Lewis isn't giving up without a fight, after copping the most debated fine in Queensland this month.

Although resigned to the $10,000 hit from the Rockhampton Magistrates Court for green-lighting an illegal load of hay bound for a desperate drought-stricken farmer, Peter is hoping some good will result from the fallout.

Already Queensland Transport has issued a statement saying it is currently working towards mirroring NSW's recently introduced 2.83m width allowances for the movement of fodder to drought declared areas.

Meanwhile, everyone from the National Road Transport Association to the Queensland Trucking Association is rallying in support of Peter's plight.

"Here we have a truck carting hay bound for drought-stricken farmers, incurring a fine for being over width," QTA CEO Gary Mahon said.

"Now, hang on to your hats, because this was a big load. At its widest point it was 16.5cm over width.

"That is about three inches a side, and measured near the top of the load. The curtains were allegedly 'bulging'. In NSW/VIC/SA, this load is 'legal' out to 2.7m for both wool and hay and on August 13 was increased to 2.83m in width and 4.6m in height. Evidently, when you cross an imaginary line at the Queensland border, this becomes the safety fine of the year at $10,000.

"Of all the priorities that could have been pursued for Chain of Responsibility, this is the case that is the standout? Although clearly a defining priority, this infringement will be in the running for Fine of the year."

Gary said it was a classic example of the inconsistent level of scrutiny the industry was subject to under the current Heavy Vehicle National Law and it was critical that a review was done sooner rather than later on this "convoluted piece of legislation".

NatRoad also weighed in by consulting with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator about bringing in standard dimensions for the carting of hay.

"We hope that the authorities will continue to recognise the extraordinary circumstances of farmers affected by drought, which is extreme in its severity," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said.

"NatRoad is very appreciative of the concessions that have been applied by the NSW Government, including the latest notice which allows eligible vehicles carrying baled or rolled hay to operate as wide as 2.83m and as high as 4.6m in certain circumstances.

"We would like to see a similar exemption notice applied nationwide as hay from all over the country continues to be delivered to NSW. That has been the crux of our discussions with NHVR.

"NatRoad will actively participate in the review of the National Heavy Vehicle Law and we will be pressing for uniformity in regulations which should be the same across the country. What matters most is getting in place sensible laws."

Despite the state disparities, Peter knows he has to cop this one on the chin. Although he wasn't behind the wheel on the fateful run in June last year in his company's B-double, he signed off on the load, even after the driver advised he thought it could be too wide.

"Queensland Transport believe I've snubbed my nose at the law under the CoR, but that's not the case," said the 61-year-old who has never lost a bale, or been fined for hay running before now.

"I assessed that it was safe enough to let on the road. I got up in cab and could see down the side of it, no worries in the mirrors. It was just because it was inside curtains that it looked worse than it did."

Peter said you'd struggle to find anyone carrying a legal load of hay in the state under the current laws.

"It's a practical thing with wool and hay bales; you can't make them exactly the right shape all the time, and that's why we need to have the variance, just to be able to go over that little bit on each side."

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