Ag-Spread fined $95k for fatigue offences

Bulk transporter Ag-Spread fined $95,000 after VicRoads investigation exposes almost 184 fatigue offences, including false work diary records

Ag-Spread fined $95k for fatigue offences
Ag-Spread fined $95k for fatigue offences
By Brad Gardner | November 23, 2010

Bulk transporter Ag-Spread has been fined $95,000 after an in-depth investigation by VicRoads exposed a litany of fatigue management breaches.

The Magistrates Court of Victoria yesterday upheld 85 charges against the trucking company, which included exceeding allotted work hours on 52 occasions and 19 counts of possessing falsified work diary records.

Ag-Spread faced a maximum fine of $2.78 million stemming from the six-month investigation by VicRoads that uncovered 184 breaches. The department withdrew 99 minor offences after Ag-Spread pleaded guilty to them.

VicRoads Director for Vehicle Management and Safety Don Hogben has used the case to issue a warning to the trucking industry.

"The outcome of this VicRoads investigation sends a clear message that if heavy vehicle operators do not comply with the heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws, they will be caught and prosecuted," he says.

"This result reflects the combined efforts of our Transport Safety Services (TSS) officers and investigations group."

Ag-Spread was found guilty of failing to ensure seven-hour continuous breaks on seven occasions. It also committed seven breaches of the basic fatigue management (BFM) 84-hour work rule, which mandates a 24-hour continuous rest after 84 hours of work. Ag-Spread is accredited under BFM.

According to documents obtained by ATN, VicRoads was approached by Ag-Spread drivers complaining they were being "pushed" to exceed driving hours by the company.

After taking detailed statements from employees, VicRoads ordered Ag-Spread to produce driving records. Investigators audited 30 days of driving and found 36 of the company’s 63 drivers committed more than 200 fatigue breaches.

During interviews with VicRoads in May this year, Ag-Spread cited its lack of knowledge of the breaches as an excuse for them occurring.

Introduced in 2008, fatigue management law puts the onus on all parties in the supply chain to ensure truck drivers do not breach work restrictions.

Those accredited in BFM can work up to 14 hours a day, while unaccredited drivers are limited to 12 hours.

Fatigue laws are part of the chain of responsibility framework, which also applies to speed and vehicle mass.

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