A truckie who crashed his 2016 Volvo FM tipper after the vehicle’s front tyre blew out will be covered for losses after a dispute ruling determined its “unroadworthy” condition could not have been reasonably detected.
The driver said the front right steer tyre “blew out”, which caused the tipper truck to collide with a concrete barrier. The vehicle was assessed as a total loss.
The driver’s parent company lodged a claim a day after he had been involved in the single-vehicle accident on April 5 last year.
The truck was assessed as a total loss, meaning the insurer would be liable for the sum insured of $150,000, or the market value (whichever is lesser).
But QBE declined the claim, referring to a policy exclusion that said it would not cover losses for vehicles in an “unsafe or unroadworthy condition unless such condition could not reasonably be detected by you”.
A QBE-appointed automotive engineering expert reviewed the vehicle and found that that the tyre suffered a tread separation which caused the driver to “lose directional control of the truck and crash.”
The expert said the truck’s front tyres had defects that made it “unsafe and unroadworthy” and concluded the truckie “should have been aware of the condition of the steer tyres.”
They claimed that standard inspection protocols conducted by a professional truck driver would have raised the issue.
The complainant argued that the tyre defect could not have been reasonably detected prior to the accident. They noted that the vehicle was regularly serviced, including just six weeks before the accident, where no issues were reported.
They also said that all drivers were required to conduct “pre-start” checks before driving a vehicle.
The insurer said “no reasonable driver inspecting the truck could fail to miss the tyre issues,” saying that the truck operators should have had “sufficient experience and knowledge” to identify and deal with it.
In its determination, dispute authority, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), accepted that the immediate cause of the crash was the defective tyres.
However, it was not satisfied that the exclusion applied because the complainant took appropriate steps to ensure the vehicle was in good condition by having it regularly serviced and checked before being operated.
It accepted that the issues could have been detected with a “close inspection” of the tyres but said it was not fair to expect the insured to identify it.
“Whilst I acknowledge a close or professional inspection of the tyres might have alerted the complainant to the issue, I am not satisfied the exclusion applies,” AFCA said.
“If it was reasonable for the complainant or its staff to have been aware of the issue, I expect such a problem should have been apparent when the truck was last serviced.”
“At worst, the complainant’s failure was an oversight. There is no persuasive evidence the vehicle’s condition was, or reasonably should have been, detected.
“There is nothing to show the front tyres should have materially deteriorated in the six weeks between the service and the accident. Records show the truck travelled only another 5000km or so. At the very least, if it was a developing issue, it is not unreasonable to expect that some form of warning or suggestion to monitor would have been issued to ensure the complainant was aware of an issue. There is no evidence of this occurring.”
The ruling required the insurer to settle the complainant for the total loss truck at the insured sum of $150,000 or a market value, whichever was lesser.