A NSW based transport company, its managing director and a scheduler have been fined a total of $210,000 in the NSW Supreme Court for fatigue and speed related offences.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) says the breaches occurred when both the managing director and scheduler failed to ensure adequate systems and procedures were in place to manage driver fatigue, speed and compliance with work and rest hours.
De Paoli Transport entered a guilty plea to a Category 2 offence under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and received a $180,000 fine.
The managing director George De Paoli and scheduler Jonathon De Paoli were each convicted of Category 3 offences under the HVNL and were fined $15,000 each.
Although George De Paoli was the managing director of the Leeton based transport company, he was only convicted as a scheduler of drivers and heavy vehicles.
According to court documents, De Paoli Transport operated a fleet of approximately 32 heavy vehicles during the time in question (between May 21, 2019 and March 30, 2021) and was operating on long distance routes between Leeton and Brisbane, as well as to Sydney and Melbourne.
While George De Paoli was responsible for scheduling drivers to carry out deliveries to and from Leeton and Brisbane, he was assisted by Jonathon De Paoli, who scheduled drivers’ trips to and from Leeton, Sydney and Melbourne.
Charges against De Paoli Transport included for failing to maintain adequate systems to:
- Continuously assess and review risks within their transport operations;
- Ensure drivers had current and valid driving licences;
- Implement safe driving plans for trips taken by drivers capable of assisting drivers to understand what breaks they had to take during the trip;
- Ensure each driver’s fitness to drive was verified by a manager and/or supervisor prior to each trip;
- Ensure drivers were not speeding;
- Ensure drivers were not driving in breach of their work/rest hours;
- Safely schedule drivers;
- Ensure drivers reported notices issued to the drivers by police and/or Roads and Maritime Services (now Transport for NSW) relating to the heavy vehicles being driven by the drivers.
Court documents say the company failed to provide training regarding driver fatigue, calculating rest breaks and filling out logbooks. It also points to a failure in providing training on policies and procedures relating to speeding and fatigue.
George De Paoli started De Paoli Transport in 2006 and prior to that it went by a different name and was started in 1987. Its main operations are centred around the transportation of agricultural produce.
In sentencing the company, court documents state, “George De Paoli believes that he had done his best to manage and address risks and given directions to his employees verbally without documenting those directions. He accepts he could have done more.
“The company did have a National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (“NHVAS”) Basic Fatigue Management Manual dated 24 June 2019, which addressed the issue of driver fatigue but only by stating that “a driver must not drive if not fit for duty”. The company also had a “What is fatigue” fact sheet and Driver Fatigue Management Policy dated 14 January 2009. However, the company did not have a documented process for assessing the fitness of drivers prior to driving.”
In August 2019, De Paoli Transport also installed ‘Guardian Seeing Machines’ to four of its trucks.
“Upon receiving a notification through the system, George De Paoli would call the driver to check whether they were tired. It took until September 2020 to install the Guardian Seeing Machines in all of the company’s vehicles,” court documents state.
“The company also installed GPS tracking systems in the company’s vehicles in 2013. However, George De Paoli states he was aware of issues with the accuracy and functionality of the GPS tracking. He also acknowledges that drivers were required to record their work/rest hours in diaries and logbooks but they did not always do it accurately. Ensuring that drivers both adhere to and record their compliance with fatigue management is surely integral to the safe operation of heavy vehicles on roadways.
“I accept, based on George De Paoli’s evidence, that the company did have some measures in place, although they were plainly inadequate. I also accept that the contraventions were not deliberate attempts to circumvent or avoid responsibilities in respect of fatigue management and driver behaviour,” said the magistrate.
According to NHVR acting executive director of statutory compliance, Belinda Hughes, this was the first Supreme Court judgment for primary duty offences under the HVNL.
“In this case, the managing director was found to be a party in the chain of responsibility and was convicted as a scheduler,” Hughes said.
“Schedulers have the responsibility to ensure they are compliant with their primary duty and take the reasonable and practical steps to ensure the safety of their transport activities.
“The judgement highlights that the HVNL operates based on what duties you perform, not the title you hold.
“The sentence sends a strong message to industry that the courts will take breaching your duty to ensure safe transport activities seriously.”
The NHVR says the sentence reflected the changes the company has now implemented, including engaging a health and safety expert to review safety processes to implement additional safe driving plans.
The company has also increased reviews of driver compliance, which has led to an increase in corrective action reports.
Big Rigs attempted to contact De Paoli Transport but was unsuccessful.