Trucking company fined $360k after fatal trailer ramp incident

A former Riverina long-haul freight business has been sentenced and fined $360,000 after a driver and “very close friend” was killed during a tragic trailer ramp incident.

Gregory Edwards, who had over 20 of experience as a truck driver, commenced employment with the company formerly known as Territory Transport Pty Ltd, as an interstate linehaul driver, in July 2018.

He was given a notice of termination of employment on November 1, 2019, as the business intended to cease operations.

In the days leading up to his death, Edwards drove a prime mover towing a trailer for the offender from Darwin to Adelaide and then to the Hanwood depot, arriving on November 5, 2019. His partner accompanied him on the trip.

Two passenger vehicles were loaded onto a different truck and trailer at the depot, which Edwards was tasked with transporting to Sydney.

The trailer had two metal loading ramps controlled by a hydraulic system. The ramps were raised and lowered by the circulation of oil through the hydraulic hoses to the hydraulic rams. When not in use the ramps were secured by an anchor chain and ratchet device.

As the ramps were unsuitable for loading one of the vehicles (a Ford Falcon with a lowered suspension), depot manager Ben Pawson used a forklift to place both of the vehicles on the trailer from the side.

When loaded at the Hanwood depot, there was no pre-start check of the trailer involving a visual inspection of the hydraulic system or testing of the hydraulic system to lower or raise the ramps.

Edwards arrived in the Sydney suburb of Ingleburn that same evening, where he was met by a tow truck driver who had been sent to unload the vehicles.

In preparation to unload, Edwards removed the safety chain from the passenger side ramp. When he walked behind the ramp, it fell on top of him as he walked underneath, fatally pinning him down.

His partner and the tow truck driver tried to lift the ramp off him but it was too heavy, and Edwards was pronounced dead at the scene.

When the trailer was examined, an oil leak was found in the hydraulic hoses servicing the driver’s side ramp. The hydraulic fluid reservoir was empty and it was determined that the system had been leaking for some time due to a damaged hydraulic hose fitting on the hydraulic ram. The hydraulic system was therefore not holding the ramps in place if the safety chains were removed.

A SafeWork investigation led to the company being charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers.

Raymond Monteleone, the sole director of Territory Transport, which ran the depot in Hanwood, entered a guilty plea on behalf of the company on July 14, 2022. He revealed he had ceased trading and was no longer running a business in the transport industry.

In sentencing, District Court judge Andrew Scotting said a simple visual check of the trailer would have determined that there was an oil leak that could compromise the operation of the hydraulic system. “The steps that could have been taken were relatively simple and inexpensive,” he said.

In his letter to the court, Monteleone revealed the impact the incident has had on his mental state. “Mr Edwards was not only an employee of my business, he was also a very close friend. His accident is something I will need to live with for the rest of my life, not a day goes by that I don’t think of him,” he wrote.

“Mr Edwards was one of a kind, he was excellent at his job, he was a good man and a great mate. I miss him dearly.”

Monteleone asked that his absence in court be excused. “I find it very difficult dealing with Mr Edwards’ accident not only as his employer but also as his friend. I do not feel emotionally stable to be able to relive this horrible tragedy,” he said.

The court heard Territory Transport was a good corporate citizen with no prior record since it commenced operations in 2011.

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