A transport company and its supervisor have been prosecuted and fined over a crash where a truck veered across a road, collided with trees and then rolled, spilling its cargo of live chickens onto the road.
The incident occurred in February 2020, in Cardigan, Victoria, with the company now prosecuted for a breach of primary duty.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) laid charges against the company and its supervisor following an investigation from Victoria Police for failing to have procedures in place to assess, monitor and manage a driver’s fitness for duty, including providing adequate training to prospective and current employees.
Both the company and a supervisor from the company pleaded guilty to a category 2 offence for the incident, under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
The driver of the vehicle was a prospective employee who was permitted to drive the heavy vehicle approximately 6.5 hours into a job interview. The interview started at 9.30pm on February 6 and the crash occurred at 7.30am the next morning.
The court convicted and fined the company $35,000, while the supervisor was fined $6,500. This fine was imposed notwithstanding the fact that the company had spent over $200,000 on improvements within the company since the offence.
The magistrate remarked that general deterrence remained a significant sentencing factor given public safety was put at risk.
NHVR acting director of prosecutions Elim Chan said the incident could have been far worse and that the driver was lucky not to have been seriously injured or killed in the accident.
“This prosecution sends a strong message that the courts will take breaching your primary duty seriously, to ensure the safety of transport activities,” said Chan.
“Fatigue is an issue we are seeing having a big impact on drivers, resulting in serious injuries or death. Take your rest breaks – it’s just not worth the risk.”
NHVR director of operations southern region Steve Miller said the NHVR was working with industry to raise better awareness of the extreme risk that fatigue presents.
“Driving while feeling sleepy, physically or mentally tired, or lacking energy, is a major heavy vehicle safety hazard,” Miller said.
“Our aim is to have a strong engagement and education presence – from formal events to random roadside inspections – with a focus on promoting safe industry behaviour.
“With the road toll spiking in almost every state and territory over the past 12 months, the safety of all drivers on the road is our number one priority.”