As holidaymakers return to the roads over the Christmas period, Queensland is cracking down on motorists taking up space in crucial heavy vehicle rest areas.
The state's Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has introduced amended regulations to ensure the rest stops remain free for heavy vehicle drivers mandated to take regular stops to combat fatigue.
There are just over 450 rest areas around Queensland – 50 of them available to both regular motorists and caravans as well as heavy vehicles, and 115 of them designated for heavy vehicles only.
The government's amendments will see harsher fines, clearer signage at rest stops and more power granted to TMR officers to issue warnings and penalties to offending motorists.
"Rest areas are provided for the convenience of all motorists to manage fatigue and they need to be used fairly for everyone’s safety and amenity," a Queensland TMR spokesperson told CarAdvice.
"They are not a source of accommodation. Congestion and illegal camping at rest areas have been going issues."
TMR commenced an awareness campaign in mid-September this year and has already rolled out new signs in hot spots, clearly stipulating requirements for use – like whether the areas are designated for heavy vehicles only, or if there are applicable hours of operation for regular motorists.
"The amendments clarify the rules for rest area use and camping, providing stronger and simpler enforcement powers for TMR, such as the ability to issue move-on directions or fines," the spokesperson explained.
The Queensland Government is hoping to increase awareness around the legislated rest obligations placed on fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle drivers, authorising Queensland Police and TMR officers to issue formal warnings, or penalties as a last resort.
The minimum penalty for incorrectly or illegally utilising a heavy vehicle rest stop is an on-the-spot fine of $266, or up to $2669.
"Managing driver fatigue is a critical issue for the safety of all road users on our network," the TMR spokesperson added.
Earlier this year, New South Wales became the first state to implement harsher penalties for motorists using heavy vehicle rest stops, trialling four-hour limits and on-the-spot fines of $114 for motorists, campervans and caravans incorrectly utilising the areas.
The trial concludes before the end of the year, with findings expect to be shared in early 2021.