Farm advice: Securing your load

By: By John Sheddan, director, Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd

An insecure or loose load can be inconvenient, create a hazard and, in the worst-case scenario, unintentionally be a deadly weapon

John Sheddan

All road users have seen dodgy-looking loads or towing that have caused drivers to increase following distances or dodge randomly dropped items that have fallen or blown from trucks or trailers. Even worse, drivers have been forced to take high-speed evasive manoeuvres to dodge dislodged items falling from those trucks or trailers.

In this article, we point out that all drivers and operators have a responsibility to secure their loads, and explain the consequences if this doesn’t happen.

But it’s just a fine if you get caught, right?

The Land Transport Act 1998 and its associated regulations provide strict liability offences[1] for having an insecure load. For an individual, failing to secure a load risks an instant fine of $600. If the circumstances are sufficiently dangerous, you may face court prosecution. The court can award fines of up to $2000 for an individual, or $10,000 for a company, and the driver can face disqualification from driving for as long as the court rules is appropriate due to the circumstances.


These penalties are faced by the operator of a vehicle on the road. ‘Operator’ is defined in the Act as to use or drive, or to operate such vehicle, so it catches both the driver and owner. ‘Operating’ interpreted under the Act is far wider than merely driving. It can capture the registered owner, even if not driving, and even a dispatcher, depending on the circumstances.

As well, if the vehicle is not displaying a current Warrant of Fitness (WoF), there’s an on-the-spot instant $200 fine. If you’re prosecuted in court, this fine can be increased to $2000.

Whether the fine is issued instantly, or pursued in court, would depend on the situation, circumstances, and nature of your offending. The issue being addressed is road safety, and the risk created to yourself or others.

It’s still just a fine, right?

Horrifyingly, the fines only record part of a story. The crux of the matter is safety – to you and others using the road.

My own recollections, reinforced with a few simple Google searches when writing this article, revealed cases of insecure loads falling onto the road that have caused horrific injuries, paralysis, and death. These have resulted in changed lives, ruined careers, and – worse – families whose loved ones did not come home.

With the outcomes racking devastation on innocent victims and the guilty parties, no events of such devastation can occur without suffering for all involved.

That’s a bit over the top, isn’t it?

Sadly, it’s not, and it’s not getting any better.

Forty years ago, I can still recall a classmate’s sibling ending up in a wheelchair when a tandem trailer jumped its ball hitch, ran free, and crashed into a car travelling the other way.
There was a similar situation 20 years ago, where a new trainee was asked to move a trailer, which also came loose.

It resulted in horrific injuries to a pedestrian and prosecutions for both the trainee and supervisor.

This form of accident is still happening. Simple web searches throw up a wealth of news stories, prosecutions, and road statistics. What is particularly poignant are the statistics resulting from the insecure transporting of mattresses that, once loose, have caused major disruption and injuries on our cities’ motorways.[2]

WorkSafe prosecution

For a business, an accident resulting from an insecure load will face a WorkSafe investigation and possible prosecution under the Health and Safety Act 2015. The courts can award substantial fines and orders for reparation payments to the innocent victims or families of these victims.

Sadly, the reading of such cases clearly outlines the pain and grief that such inadvertent actions can cause on all involved, from the initial mistake or faulty strappings to the accident, the first responders, the hospital staff, the families, crash scene investigators, subsequent investigations and interviews, reports, prosecutions, hearings, delays, and eventually the days in court.

Regardless of the circumstances, those involved, their families, their work colleagues, and the people who deal with the aftermath, all become victims and suffer from the initial oversight or unthought action that will last for years.


Last year, a successful WorkSafe prosecution was recorded in circumstances where an insecure trailer came loose resulting in injuries to many, including the death of a young girl in an oncoming car. The accident happened in 2020, the charges were laid in 2021, and the court hearing was in late 2022. The company involved had to pay a $50,000 fine and reparations of $145,000.

This case highlights the obligations of a business to monitor and ensure the roadworthiness of its vehicles, that WoFs and certificates are current, and that the maximum towing limits are identified and recorded.[3]

Reading the facts of the case, you cannot help but feel for those involved in events which played out over three years, but which will remain with those involved forever. Be safe.

[1] A strict liability offence does not have to be proven, if you are caught in a situation the offence is committed. Examples include parking tickets or speeding, current WoF or road registration. If you are caught, you are deemed to be guilty of the offence.

[2] I’ve chosen not to mention individual cases due to the risk of extending a family’s pain. If you want to read more, search ‘nz insecure load death’ or something similar. Numerous stories are available, and the devastation and pain to all involved is devastatingly obvious.


John Sheddan is a director of Gore law firm, Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd. He specialises in rural and commercial issues involving rural and residential property sales, business sales, leases, and subdivisions.

Sheddan Pritchard Law Ltd is a member of NZ LAW Limited, an association of 57 independent law firms practising in more than 80 locations.

Information given in this column should not be a substitute for legal advice.

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