M. Eburn

Tasmania, the national road rules and red/blue lights on a TFS slip-on

In Driving and Road Rules, Fire on January 12, 2013 at 8:27 am

As I’ve mentioned before, nothing appears to attract more attention on this blog than the issue of driving emergency vehicles and the application of the road rules.   I also look back on my own CV and see that the first journal article I wrote was ‘Driving Emergency Vehicles and the Law’ (1992) 15(2) Response 10-11.  In 2013 the first paper I’ve written for the year is ‘The law of driving under emergency conditions’ for the editor of Phoenix, the journal of the Victoria Emergency Service Association.  It is not only the subject that attracts the most interest, it’s being doing so for a long time.

In this blog I’ve looked at the road rules in

NSW

Queensland

Victoria

Western Australia

Today it’s Tasmania’s turn.  I’ve been asked:

I have a similar query to the one posted about the CFA slip on unit and using red and blue warning lights. Are the laws any different for Tasmania I have had several instances when I have had to use my personal vehicle using red and blue warning lights I haven’t been able to find the regulations in Tasmania that define this.

First remember that the road rules are nationally consistent, and we know that they provide that the road rules do not apply to the driver of an emergency vehicle in circumstances where it is reasonable in that a particular rule should not be applied, the driver is taking reasonable care and if the vehicle is moving, it is fitted with red or blue lights and/or a siren.  That rule is contained in the Road Rules 2009 (Tas) s 306.

What is different, jurisdiction to jurisdiction, is what is defined as an emergency vehicle.  In Tasmania an emergency vehicle is defined as

any vehicle driven by a person who is –

(a) an emergency worker for the provision; and

(b) driving the vehicle in the course of his or her duty as an emergency worker; Road Rules 2009 (Tas), Schedule 5)

So who is an emergency worker?  That’s harder to understand; the Road Rules define emergency worker as ‘ a person who is an emergency worker for the Rules, or the provision, under another law of this jurisdiction’ Road Rules 2009 (Tas), Schedule 5); a definition which is circular: “for the purposes of these rules an emergency worker is anyone who is an emergency worker for the purposes of these rules”.  All is not lost however, in Schedule 6 the regulations set out the definitions and provisions that are unique to Tasmania and not part of the National Scheme and that includes the definition of emergency worker.  In Schedule 6 we are told

 A person is an emergency worker  for the Road Rules if the person is –

(a) approved or authorised under the Ambulance Service Act 1982; or

(b) appointed or employed for the purposes of the Emergency Management Act 2006 or registered as a volunteer member of the State Emergency Service under section 28(2)(b) of that Act; or

(c) appointed or employed for the purposes of the Fire Service Act 1979; or

(d) a ranger appointed under, or a person appointed or employed for the purposes of, the Nature Conservation Act 2002; or

(e) a ranger appointed under, or a person appointed or employed for the purposes of, the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002.

Tasmania has a single fire service.  A volunteer is not, by definition, employed for the purposes of the Fire Services Act 1979 (Tas).   Section 26 says ‘the Commission may appoint such volunteers as fire officers and fire-fighters of the brigade as the Commission considers necessary or expedient’ to a permanent, composite or volunteer brigade.    It follows that volunteers with the Tasmania Fire Service are ‘appointed’ for the purposes of the Act and are, therefore, emergency workers and a vehicle driven by them ‘in the course of his or her duty as an emergency worker’ is an emergency vehicle.

If I assume that my correspondent is a volunteer with the Tasmania Fire Service, and when called to respond they put the slip-on unit on the ute and head off to the fire as part of their volunteering, then at that time the vehicle is an emergency vehicle.  It would be different if they used the slip on unit on their own property and the neighbours but when responding to a fire call went to the shed and collected the TFS truck.

Fitting red/blue lights to an emergency vehicle

Again to reiterate, the mere conclusion that a vehicle is an emergency vehicle does not mean that it can have red/blue lights or a siren fitted.

Fitting lights to vehicles is governed by the Vehicle and Traffic (Vehicle Standards) Regulations 2001 (Tas).  In section 108 flashing lights are provided for.  First the section has a different definition of emergency vehicle, for the purposes of this section an emergency vehicle is

(a) an ambulance; or

(b) a vehicle built or permanently modified for firefighting purposes; or

(c) a vehicle used by an electricity authority for carrying out emergency repairs to power lines;.

That does not include a private ute with a TFS slip-on unit.  On the other hand, an exempt vehicle includes “a vehicle operated, approved or authorised under the Fire Service Act 1979”.  If we assume the TFS approves the use of the slip on by volunteers as part of their TFS volunteering the vehicle is ‘exempt’ (but from what we are yet to find out).

Clause 108(4) says:

(a) an exempt vehicle may be fitted with one or more flashing lights of any colour and one or more reflectors of any colour; and

(b) an emergency vehicle may be fitted with one or more flashing red or white lights;

Equally a vehicle ‘operated, approved or authorised under the Fire Service Act 1979’ may be fitted with a siren (s 35).  There is no further detail and no requirement to get permission from the registration authority.

So where does that leave the TFS slip on unit?  It seems to me that the vehicle is an exempt vehicle to the extent that it is ‘operated, approved or authorised under the Fire Services Act 1979’ so the critical question is what is the approval or authorisation?  In short if the TFS authorise or approve the fitting of red/blue lights you can do it.  The real question is what is the level of approval required?  Is the approval of the local captain enough or does it need to come from the Tasmania Fire Commission?

Neither the Fire Service Act 1979 nor the Fire Service (Finance) Regulations 2006 or the Fire Service (Miscellaneous) Regulations 2007 make any relevant provision regarding the authorising the use of fire vehicles.

In short it appears to me that a slip on unit in Tasmania could be fitted with red/blue lights and/or a siren provided that this is approved by the Tasmania Fire Service but at what level that approval is required is not at all defined so it’s really up to the TFS to decide.  There is probably a fleet manager or a committee that makes decisions about vehicles etc and they should be asked?  As a general rule a person should not be judge in their own cause so your own approval is probably not enough.

If the private vehicle is just a normal vehicle, say a sedan, the TFS could approve the use of detachable or magnetic warning lights as again it is an exempt vehicle to the extent it is ‘operated, approved or authorised under the Fire Services Act 1979’.

Michael Eburn

12 January 2013

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