Negligent drivers should be held accountable: trucking owner

K&S suffered a setback over its vehicle policy, but one operator believes holding negligent drivers liable is necessary

By Brad Gardner | September 16, 2010

K&S Freighters’ ability to hold drivers financially accountable for negligently damaging trucks might have suffered a setback, but one trucking operator believes the policy is necessary.

In a letter to ATN defending businesses that hold drivers liable for damages, trucking owner David says the industry is sick and tired of the poor attitude of drivers toward company property.

David’s letter, published here cites a recent case of a driver who caused almost $5000 damage to a truck after burning a new clutch by trying to drive while the park brake was on.

"Of course, the truck wouldn’t move but the driver still persisted with building up the revs to ‘overcome the problem’. The prime mover with attached trailer was not loaded at the time," David, who did not provide his last name, writes.

He says the incident put the truck off the road for two days, and the company is now pursuing the driver for the damage caused.

"The company policy is to get a driver to contribute to the cost of the damage they caused if it was by negligence. Most of our drivers who break things on the truck automatically replace them if they are at fault – without being asked to," he says.

David says the company wants to instil responsibility in drivers toward road users and company property.

"My company is not the welfare state that the country has become. We want our employees to understand that there are no free lunches and that they have to be conservative on the road," he says.

Fair Work Australia recently criticised K&S over its policy, which states: "An employee may be required to meet part or all of the cost of repaying any damage caused to a Company vehicle, where the employee or a driver authorised by the employee was negligent."

"Notwithstanding the use of the word ‘may’ in the Policy, there is no question that the Policy with the above inclusion, without any further explanation or qualification as to how it could or would be implemented, has all the hallmarks of unfairness," Fair Work Deputy Preident Deidre Swan says.

K&S sacked truck driver Chris Birt who refused to pay $3100 to repair a truck bumper he damaged after reversing into a loading dock.

Swan found that Birt was unfairly dismissed, awarding him $21,000 compensation.

She found Birt was denied "procedural fairness" because K&S did not investigate the incident, failed to take into account mitigating circumstances and did not give the driver the chance to tell his version of events.

Click here for the full story on the Fair Work Australia ruling.

Click here to read David’s letter.

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