Drivers in New South Wales have become some of the first in the country to face instant fines for parking in spots designated for truck drivers at highway rest stops as part of new trial restrictions implemented in parts of the state.
This week, Transport for NSW announced trial fines and parking limits in two popular rest stops in the state's north, following calls for the government to stamp out a rise in recreational vehicles using these stops for overnight or extended stays, thereby preventing truck drivers from taking mandated rest breaks.
In an effort to combat fatigue-related road incidents, the new parking restrictions have been rolled out for a six-month period in the popular Yelgun and Arrawarra rest areas along the Pacific Highway.
Under the new restrictions, four-hour limits will apply in general parking areas, while cars, camper vans and caravans parked in spaces designated for heavy vehicles will be fined $114.
"Driver fatigue is one of the top three contributors to fatal crashes on NSW roads and rest areas are designed to accommodate parking by light, recreational and heavy vehicles to take breaks and rest," Transport for NSW said in a statement.
"Roads are a heavy vehicle driver’s workplace and rest areas are important facilities for heavy vehicle drivers who often have difficulty entering towns to find accommodation or are restricted from entering towns due to the goods they carry.
"Refrigerated heavy vehicle drivers also have the added complication of having to run the vehicle while they take a rest break to ensure the freight they are transporting remains cool. This can be noisy and is not appropriate in a residential area, therefore rest areas near a highway is their best option for a break."
Infringements will be policed by by the NSW Police Force and the respective local councils.
For the record, light or recreational vehicles are classified as those under the 12-tonne mark.
The changes come after transport industry newspaper Big Rigs ran a social media campaign called 'Don't Steal Our Space' in late 2019, calling for government action on the issue.
The campaign kicked off after readers submitted photos capturing caravans and tourists in camper vans parking in truck spots in rest stops around the country over the holiday period.
"It was a continuation of a lot of complaints from our readers and drivers that it's one of the ongoing issues they face," Big Rigs editor James Graham told CarAdvice of the campaign.
"We just got tired of hearing of authorities passing the buck and not giving this issue the importance it deserves.
"It's really hard for us to take because fatigue management is continually under the thumb from authorities yet when drivers try to do the right thing they're confronted with ignorant caravaners.
"It's been going on for years and years and it falls into a grey area when it comes to jurisdiction."
While Graham acknowledged the NSW coast was particularly affected, he said it was an issue in most holiday spots along the Eastern seaboard.
"It's just as prevalent in Queensland from what we're hearing," he added.
In a statement to CarAdvice, a spokesperson for Queensland Transport and Main Roads said light vehicle drivers were permitted to use rest areas but were discouraged from using parking bays designated for heavy vehicles only.
"Most parking fines issued by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) currently carry a fine of $53, however, depending on the infringement this could be higher," the spokesperson explained.
"Local councils can also issue fines for parking on roads controlled by local governments. This may be different to the fine issued by the QPS."
In other parts of Australia, light vehicle drivers are also discouraged from using parking bays designated for heavy vehicles, but legally enforceable parking restrictions are not in place. Typically, only regular parking fines apply at most (these are around the $50 mark).
In Victoria, only rest stops specifically for trucks (as opposed to shared rest stops) are prohibited for use by cars and those who illegally park in these designated truck-only zones could face fines starting at $165.22.
Time limits on parking are uncommon in rest stops around the country - including throughout the rest of NSW.
Transport for NSW said the four-hour limits being rolled out "allow adequate time for light vehicle motorists to rest", urging those who require a longer break to seek accommodation in the area.
The effects of the NSW trial regulations will be monitored and, if successful, considered for a wider roll out in future.
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