Dyers Transport wins unfair dismissal case

Incident prone truck driver who damaged eight vehicles in 18 months tries to launch unfair dismissal against Dyers Transport

Dyers Transport wins unfair dismissal case
One incident too many for Dyers driver
By Brad Gardner | November 5, 2009

A truck driver with a habit for damaging vehicles has lost his unfair dismissal claim against Dyers Gippsland Transport for sacking him.

Mark Russell told the Australian Industrial Relations Commission that Dyers had no right to fire him in July for hitting a tree with a trailer because it was unintentional and the damage was not his responsibility.

But Commissioner Dominica Whelan dismissed his claim after being told Russell failed to report the incident and had caused damage to eight vehicles in 18 months.

Russell had also received official warnings for not reporting damage to a vehicle in another incident and for leaving perishable goods outside a delivery centre.

"For these reasons I am satisfied that the termination was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable and the application is therefore dismissed," Whelan ruled.

The Commission heard Russell’s record of damage to vehicles was five to six times that of other drivers.

"It was Mr [Greg] Dyer’s assessment that Mr Russell had trouble with the nature of the job," Whelan says.

Company manager Mark Rendall says he noticed the damage to the trailer when Russell returned to the depot and he expected the driver to report it.

"He did not report the damage and was instead taking the trailer back to the dairy area where it would be hard to determine who was responsible for the damage," Whelan says.

Russell claimed he was going to report the damage but the company did not believe him, deciding to terminate his employment immediately.

Russell argued the company should be held responsible for the damage because it sent trucks in excess of four metres down residential streets with trees and power lines.

He also claimed poor weather on the day of the incident contributed to the damage, but Whelan ruled no other driver reported problems.

Russell also argued he had not been treated fairly, claiming the previous warnings were not justified.

But Whelan heard that Dyers felt drives should not be responsible for reporting the damage caused by someone else and that the company’s client, IGA, had expectations on the presentation of trailers which have the IGA badges on them.

"The company were [sic] very patient with Mr Russell. They only asked him to report damage. There are certain standards they try to uphold," Whelan says.

However, the Commission did criticise the company’s actions by saying Russell was not given an opportunity to respond to the reason for his termination.

But while saying this, Whelan ruled that a different procedure would not have altered the outcome.

Dyers has been operating in the Gippsland region since 1932 and is now run by fourth generation brothers Scott, Greg and David.

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