A Brisbane based heavy transport and machinery business has been fined $1.2 million after pleading guilty to 37 charges of contravening the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
Foley Contracting Pty Ltd entered a guilty plea on May 16, 2023.
The investigation, led by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, followed a truck accident on August 6, 2020. Court documents reveal that the truck rolled after “one of the drivers misjudged the hydraulics on the side tipper mechanism of the trailer and caused the entire combination to fall over on its side”.
Though fatigue wasn’t found to have contributed to the accident, the subsequent investigation found that eight of the company’s truck drivers had committed a large number of fatigue regulated breaches during a five week period from July 1, 2020, to August 6, 2020.
A total of 83 critical risk breaches, 15 severe risk breaches, 14 substantial risk breaches, and 81 minor risk breaches were recorded.
The role of these drivers was to transport large rocks, weighing between five to eight tonnes each from the Ravenswood goldmine to a stockpile near the construction of the Port of Townsville Expansion Project.
The case was heard at the Holland Park Magistrates Court in Queensland, where Magistrate Young said it was important to note that neither the drivers nor the executive officers at Foley Contracting were being sentenced.
According to court documents, “The defendant [Foley Contracting] paid its drivers by way of a generous hourly rate and unsurprisingly the relevant drivers sought to maximise their income but in doing so paid little regard to the fatigue regulated driver obligations of the HVNL.
“The drivers submitted weekly workbooks as the basis of their hourly claims. Even a cursory review of the hours worked by the drivers on a weekly basis shows significant concerns but instead of stepping in to end the drivers offending conduct, the defendant paid them substantially – although not entirely – in accordance with their claims, and in doing so have been held to have encouraged the drivers to continue to disregard their fatigue obligations.”
It continued, “It is relevant to the culpability of the defendant that in paying the drivers in such a way the defendant needed to be proactive in avoiding circumstances of the drivers not complying with the fatigue regulations to increase their take home pay. As the opportunity and temptation to the drivers was obvious, the company needed to be diligent in overseeing the obvious risk.”
During the investigation period, 40 weekly worksheets were submitted by drivers, with 31 of these modified by the defendant’s officers after referring back to the drivers about their claims.
The company’s director Neville Foley is an experienced operator who started the business together with Amanda Foley back in the 1980s.
He fully cooperated with the Department’s investigations by undertaking two recorded interviews and providing documents on behalf of the company as required.
Earlier this year, Foley Contracting has engaged a separate employee to deal with logbook and driver fatigue related matters. Limitations on driver hours are also now being enforced by the company.
When contacted for comment, Neville Foley said he was considering whether to appeal. “It’s a fairly severe fine compared to other fines that have been handed out, so I’ll go through the motions and decide what to do,” he said.