A little known regulation covering the height at which a number plate is mounted on the back of a caravan has stirred up a hornet’s nest of angst … and cost one unlucky caravanner $415.
Steve Laws was on his way back home, after having towed his Crusader all the way around Australia, when an eagle-eyed highway policeman slapped him with the heavy fine and gave him three demerit points. Steve’s offence was having a rear licence plate sitting 30cm higher than regulations allow.
As a member of the NRMA, Steve contacted the NSW motoring organisation and they carried out some research on his behalf. They found NSW road transport vehicle legislation drafted in 2007 (where the offence occurred) and Victorian road safety regulations enshrined in 2009 (where the caravan was built) both require the number plate on a caravan to be no more than 1.3 metres above the ground.
“What gets up my nose is that the caravan is three years old, it passed rego and it was built locally so I thought this rule was a new thing – but it’s not,” Mr Laws told the NRMA. “The guys who made it should know the rules and the guys who passed it for rego should know, too. But the policeman who pulled me over said ‘it’s your fault for driving it’.”
And Mr Laws reckons he is far from being the only one inadvertently breaking the rules.
“Ever since I got booked, I look at caravans all the time on the road now and I reckon 30% of them aren’t legal – why aren’t police pulling them up?” he asked. “There are actually a couple of caravan parks up my way and I reckon there’d be a traffic jam if police were pulling them all up.”
Following the publicity generated by the NRMA surrounding the issue, the Caravan Industry Association has been in contact with Crusader Caravans to discuss the matter.
“We’re working closely with the national regulator to stamp out non-compliance across a range of areas,”the organisation’s chief executive, Stuart Lamont, told the NRMA. “We’ve been talking to state government bodies about this but they’ve been going down the path of education rather than enforcement, which has failed.”
Mr Lamont said breaches regarding couplings, gas and electrical installations, so-called “suicide doors” and various personal products imported through a self-declaration process could be regarded as more pressing matters for regulators to address than number plate height.