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Failed load restraint blamed for death

December 2, 2015

Last month, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the State Government was committed to reducing the number of deaths from dangerous loads carried by truck and courier companies.

“It’s not just the driver that’ll have that responsibility, it’ll be the directors of the company, so they need to put in place proper protocols to make sure their drivers adhere to these key safety regimes,” he said.

Protocols, like the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) obligations under the Heavy Vehicle National Law, are designed to make our roads safer by holding accountable parties within the supply chain for safety breaches, not just the drivers of heavy vehicles.

Are you familiar with the protocols the Roads Minister is referring to? If not, this will help.

Fatal journey

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of NSW fined the director of a transport company for not ensuring the load his driver was carrying was secure.

A cargo of pre-fabricated steel beams was loaded by KGB Protective Coatings (KGB) onto a combination operated by Robbie Walker Transport Organisation (RWTO). Part of the load fell from the trailer, colliding with a number of cars travelling in the opposite direction, causing the death of a woman in one of those vehicles.

The driver was confident the load was secure before setting off. He drove to Dunedoo, where he rested overnight. The next morning, he checked that the load was still secure but at about 8.30am on the Mitchell Highway, west of Bathurst, part of the load fell from the trailer and collided with six vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, the driver of one of the cars, Leonie Darling, was killed.

It was determined that the dunnage supplied to KGB by RWTO to support the load had failed during the combination’s journey. The load had shifted and come loose.

Owner and director of the RWTO, Robert Walker, pleaded guilty, even though neither Mr Walker nor RWTO was aware that the dunnage was defective.

The court heard that Mr Walker was not personally involved in this particular transport operation at any stage as he was in Wangaratta at the relevant time.

Director’s liability

Mr Walker’s liability derives from Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) s178(1), which says that where a body corporate commits an offence, a director of that body corporate and any person concerned in its management “is taken to have committed the offence and is punishable accordingly.” The relevant load restraint requirement is to be found in cl 61(2) of the Road Transport (Mass, Loading and Access) Regulation 2005, which provides that a load on a vehicle or a trailer must be secured so that it is unlikely to fall or be dislodged from the vehicle.

The breach in this case was determined to be severe and carried a maximum fine of $27,500 for a first offence for a company. Mr Walker was subject to a maximum fine of $5,500.

As a first offence, Robbie Walker Transport was fined $16,500, while Walker was fined $900 (after deductions for early guilty pleas). The company and Walker were ordered to pay the RMS $20,000 in court costs.

Similarly, KGB was fined $18,150 (after a deduction for an early guilty plea) and ordered to pay $25,000 to the RMS in court costs.
Above is a classic case of the driver not being held solely responsible for the fatality caused by the load he was carrying coming loose.

The RWTO director was fined personally for his role in the tragedy, even though he wasn’t present at the accident, or loaded the truck.

Are you confident you are meeting your Chain of Responsibility obligations, so as to absolve you and your company of any wrongdoing? It’s a tricky subject.  Isn’t it time you got access to the expert advice contained within the pages of CoR Adviser?

Click here to find out more and to start your obligation-free trial.