Sydney Morning Herald - Thursday 18 August, 2005
Company drivers get licence to speed
By Andrew Clark
For most motorists, the dreaded flash of a speed camera prompts fears of suspension from driving. But some have come up with a ruse to avoid demerit points - registering their car in the name of a company.
Speeding is supposed to be punished with a fine of between $75 and $575, plus a penalty of at least three points.
But while speeding fines can be paid by corporate car owners, points can be deducted only from individual drivers.
Road safety campaigners and lawyers have told the Herald that corporate drivers are routinely getting away without demerits because their employers fail to tell the authorities who was behind the wheel.
"If you don't nominate a driver, the demerit points simply evaporate," said Harold Scruby, the chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, which has been investigating the issue.
"It's important to fix this rort and fix it quickly."
The process is simple: when a company car is caught speeding, the company gets a bill for the fine and a request from the Roads and Traffic Authority for the name of the driver.
The RTA maintains that companies which refuse to provide a name are liable to prosecution and a fine of $2200.
But in reality, if the RTA gets no response to a series of reminder letters, it refers the case to the state debt recovery office, which only pursues the fine, plus a $50 late payment charge, and has no authority to issue demerit points.
The loophole has arisen as a result of genuine cases where fleet operators were unsure who was behind the wheel of speeding cars. "This happens quite a bit among people who run trucking companies," said Dennis Miralis, a lawyer specialising in speed-camera cases.
"They have a whole range of vehicles driven by different people and it's difficult to find out who was driving."
The Pedestrian Council has called for a tightening of the rules, either requiring all vehicles to be attached to a responsible driver or deregistering entire fleets belonging to companies that evade demerit points.
Licensing officials are examining ways to crack down on the scam, fearing it is in danger of becoming "dinner party conversation" among canny motorists.
When contacted by the Herald, both the RTA and the Revenue Protection Office said failing to nominate a driver was illegal and liable to a hefty fine.
However, neither authority was prepared to say how many companies, if any, had been prosecuted for the offence in recent years.