In September last year, things came crashing down for Jamie Roberts, 51, when he unknowingly crossed into Victoria from NSW with an outdated border pass, just days after new restrictions had come into play.
The Cootamundra based truckie’s usual route was within NSW and he had a border pass on him that had been issued by his employer, so he thought all was fine.
That was until he was intercepted by police while crossing the George Chaffey Bridge from Buronga (NSW) into Mildura (Victoria) and issued with a whopping $5452 fine for a border breach.
At the time, lockdowns were in place in both states.
“I was working with a general freight company and had taken a load of fencing material from Newcastle to Broken Hill the day before. At Broken Hill, I realised I had a slash in one of the tyres, so I called the boss and he told me to head towards Mildura and camp there for the night, then they’d arrange for the tyre to be fixed and find me a load,” explained Roberts.
“At the start of Covid our company director gave us a border pass which had no date on it. Because I hadn’t been into Victoria and it had no expiry date, I thought it was fine to pass the border.”
The plan was for Roberts to pick up a load of wine while in Mildura to transport to Melbourne. “But as I progressed across into Mildura, they pulled me up. I got out of the truck and handed them my border pass and logbook. They asked if I had any other border passes, which I didn’t. They told me that my border pass was insufficient and I needed to be able to keep up with the regulations,” said Roberts.
“I told them I’ve been living in the truck, to which they said that there are signs everywhere. But the signs don’t tell you which permit you need!”
Roberts was determined to fight the charge and appeared before the Mildura Magistrates’ Court on Monday (August 29) via video link.
“I was ropable when it happened. My boss said he’d take care of it so they put in a letter of explanation that went nowhere, but when I read it, I didn’t think too much of it – I wasn’t sure if they were trying to throw me under the bus,” Roberts said.
“In court, I told them I had left my previous employer. I felt very let down by the company and the way they handled it all.
“I’ve always worked hard all my life and to get fined for going to work, that was probably the biggest kick in the guts you could get. It really hurt. And over $5000 for an individual was really steep.”
Thankfully for Roberts, the border breach fine was completely quashed. “I didn’t think I’d walk free, I thought they might have just reduced the fine, so I was really pleased with the outcome,” he said.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time Roberts has had to appeal a fine. He has been able to successfully appeal three out of four fines.
The next fine was for travelling on a Hillston road in a B-double. “The road was no longer B-double rated, which I didn’t realise. I took that route and got fined. They said they get A-doubles and B-doubles coming through that road all the time, and that’s when I asked why there aren’t any signs up. There response was: ‘Can you imagine how much that would cost?’”
That fine was just shy of $700 and Roberts took it to court. “I represented myself and got off it, but had to pay around $180 for court fees, plus I lost a day off work, so you don’t really get let off, it still costs you.”
Another fine came after accidentally missing the Mt White Heavy Vehicle Checking Station. “I accidentally missed the turn so I turned around as soon as there was a safe opportunity. I went in there and they did the logbook check. They said you may still get a fine from the overhead signs. It was my own silly fault so I went in and explained the situation. I had just been hit up the back by someone too. I took that to court and they said you admitted your fault, did all you could to rectify it and they threw it away with no court costs.”
The last in the latest string of fines was from a red light camera in Port Botany. “I was in an A-double, towing 86 tonne. It was one of those situations where you had to decide to either brake or go. The camera got the rego off the rear trailer. I was going to contest that to, but realised I buggered up the court date, so I got the fine,” explained Roberts.
“There’s a speed limit of 80km/h there. The next I was there, I did an experiment and got the amber light at about the same point – I was doing 60km/h and had to use excessive braking force to pull up on that white line. Had I tried to brake that other time, I would’ve ended up in the middle of the intersection. There’s just no common sense in it at all.”
Though Roberts still plans to continue his driving career going forward, he’s just finished up with his current employer and plans to take a brief but well-earned break.
“I’m a mad fisherman and have three weeks holidays in Queensland booked, just up on the coast. I’m not sure what’s next, but for now am looking forward to having a few weeks off.”