As a transport boss is handed down their sentence, marking a landmark case in the transport industry, National Transport Insurance warns that the enforcement of Chain of Responsibility laws are just as important as ever.
Under Heavy Vehicle National Law, the National Operations Manager of a transport company was sentenced to three years’ jail time, $100,000+ in penalties and costs, and a 12-month prohibition from acting in similar transport roles a week ago on January 23.
The incident in question, a 2020 crash on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway which saw four police officers killed by a heavy vehicle being driven by an impaired driver, was categorised as a category one offence.
It was the first time that a transport worker had been found guilty of a category one offence, which NTI Supply Chain Technical Manager Aaron Louws says shows the seriousness of major offences.
“The sentence sends a clear message to parties within the supply chain – the law will be enforced,” he says.
“What also makes this case ground-breaking is that the defendant was convicted as an ‘operator’ of a heavy vehicle for their failure to fulfil their primary duty.”
While by definition an ‘operator’ is a person who is ‘responsible for controlling or directing the use of a heavy vehicle’, but the Court said that this could also include the immediate manager or supervisor of drivers, and senior management who have responsibilities for the use and control of a heavy vehicle.
The court ruled that the company’s policies and systems were not enforced or adequately implemented or adapted. The transport company and two of its executives have also been convicted over the incident.
“There were multiple examples of non-compliance with many aspects of the policies in the areas of recruitment, screening, the training of new workers, drug testing, recording work/rest time and adhering to work/rest requirements,” Aaron says.
“The actual implementation and enforcement of company processes never happened, and if they had, it’s possible this incident may not have occurred.
“We can all learn from this situation. It’s important to prove our standards are in place, and as an industry we work together to ensure that our actions/inactions do everything so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure this couldn’t happen again.”