Vehicle registration – shared responsibility for owner and driver

Posted on 20 February 2014

After a recent incident with a client who not only lost his licence, but as a consequence also his job due to driving a company vehicle which was actually unregistered, this is a timely reminder for all who either drive cars from a pool at work or sometimes swap cars with family members or friends.

In the case of our client, he needed his licence to carry out his job and without it, even though the company were responsible for not registering their vehicle, the onus fell upon the employee to ensure the vehicle he was driving was registered.

The issuing of registration labels by the Roads and Maritime Services ceased as of 31 December 2012. As of 1 January 2013, displaying registration labels for vehicles deemed to be “light vehicles” was no longer required. Light vehicles include motorcycles, light trailers, caravans, light buses, taxis and cars up to 4.5 gross vehicle mass (GVM). The Roads and Maritime Services (formerly the RTA) claimed a “review found that labels were not needed to support compliance and enforcement of vehicle registration and other laws and the presence of a label was not a reliable indicator that a vehicle is registered. Removing labels for light vehicles simplifies the registration process, reduces red tape and will save time and money for the community and businesses.”

Driving an unregistered vehicle on a public roadway is illegal. An unregistered vehicle also means it has no current CTP insurance. Lack of CTP insurance has serious implications in an accident situation for an at fault driver as they could be held personally liable for compensation to an injured person.

So, who then is responsible for the registration of a vehicle and what are the ramifications for a driver if they are fined for driving an unregistered vehicle? Most people’s first thoughts are that the ultimate responsibility for ensuring vehicle registration falls to the person who owns the car. This is correct, partially. From an ownership point of view this is correct however from a traffic law point of view it is actually the driver’s responsibility to ensure the vehicle they are driving is validly registered.

If a vehicle is to be driven on public roads, the owner of the vehicle should ensure it is registered and that the registration is up to date. Failure to do so attracts three fines for the driver, not the owner, of that vehicle. They are:

  • Driving an unregistered vehicle - $596
  • Driving an uninsured vehicle - $596
  • Not paying road tax - $596

If a matter is contested and goes to court, the maximum fine for driving an unregistered vehicle on a public road is $2200 plus $5500 for driving an uninsured vehicle. These potential fines now make the cost of actually registering a vehicle look very attractive.

It should be noted here that “the driver” is distinct from “the owner”. If you drive a car which is unregistered, whether that car is yours, a family member’s, a friend’s or belongs to your employer, you will be personally liable for the fine if you are pulled over by police. Whilst it is the owner’s responsibility to register their vehicle, it is the drivers responsibility to ensure the car they are driving is indeed registered before they drive it. This should be noted for company cars and trucks. In the case of heavy vehicles, a company driver driving an unregistered company vehicle is liable for a fine and loss of 4 demerit points. Whilst the company may pay the fine, the points are personal.

If you are concerned a vehicle you may need to drive or are being asked to drive may not be registered, you can do a Free Registration Check on the RMS website or you can phone the RMS contact centre on 13 22 13.

So whilst registration stickers are no longer required the driver is still responsible to check registration details regarding the car they are about to drive. Don’t take it for granted that registration is up to date, do the check.

Should you require assistance relating to a vehicle registration fine or traffic law issue, contact Dooley & Associates and one of our experienced team will be happy to discuss your matter with you.