RMS foots the bill for failed COR prosecution


Court throws out RMS prosecution of Bulga Coal Management under chain of responsibility law

RMS foots the bill for failed COR prosecution
RMS foots the bill for failed COR prosecution
By Brad Gardner | September 27, 2012

The New South Wales road authority has been left with a legal bill after its failed prosecution of Bulga Coal Management under chain of responsibility law.

The NSW Supreme Court dismissed the Roads and Maritime Services’ (RMS) argument the mining company should be held partially accountable for the collapse of a pedestrian bridge in 2009 on the New England Highway. Acting Justice Michael Grove ordered the government department to pay the company’s legal costs.

A Griffiths Garage truck carrying an elevated work platform owned by Rapid Access Australia hit the bridge, causing it to collapse. Rapid had leased the platform to Bulga, and the trucking company was returning the machinery to Rapid when the incident occurred.

The RMS charged Bulga as a consignor under chain of responsibility law, but Grove says the miner played no part in organising the return of the platform.

"In the instance under consideration, Rapid contracted with Griffiths to collect its own goods and return them to its yard," Grove says.

"In order to impose liability as a consignor upon Bulga…it needs to be shown that Bulga, on the facts of this case, engaged Griffiths indirectly through Rapid to transport the EWP [elevated work platform] by road. There was no evidence of Bulga so doing directly, nor was it suggested."

Grove says Rapid acted as the consignee and consignor in the incident. The RMS successfully prosecuted Rapid as a consignee.

The department wanted Bulga to pay for part of the cost of rebuilding the bridge. It argued the company was liable because it observed the Griffiths Garage truck driver loading the platform, it had control over the machinery before it left its site and that the driver could not leave Bulga’s premises without the company’s cooperation.

"I do not find difficulty in the notion of the same entity (Rapid) being consignor and consignee. It must be a frequent occurrence that a single entity dispatches its own goods from one place to another and it does not challenge logic that in such circumstances the dispatcher is both consignor and consignee," Grove says in his written judgment.

The accident caused more than $1.7 million in damage to the pedestrian bridge at Maitland and took the NSW Government two years to rebuild.
Griffiths Garage was fined $16,500 and told to pay $ 1 million to fix the bridge. Rapid Access was slapped with an $8,250 fine and a compensation bill of $400,000. Both parties were found guilty of breaching vehicle dimension regulations.

Grove says Rapid offered instruction and training to Griffiths Garage’s drivers on loading and transporting the platform, but the trucking company did not take up the offer.

"Failure of the company to respond to that offer is a factor for which inflates, to a marked degree, its culpability," Grove says.

He says driver Matthew Riley was not given an appropriate measuring device to check the height of the load, which exceeded 5.3 metres.

"He had neither tape measure, measuring stick or anything else with which to make an accurate estimate. Evidence during the hearing shows that he relied simply upon an eyesight check and knowledge as to what the height of his prime mover cabin happened to be," Grove says.

He says Riley did not regularly drive the combination of truck used to cart the platform.

"The evidence shows that his usual task was to drive what is described as a tilt tray truck. That is not, as I understand it, an articulated combination and it is notorious that that would be quite different from the sort of combination that he was driving on this day," Grove says.

"I do not suggest that Mr Riley did not have the appropriate licenses in order to drive the combination, but his experience was something of which the defendant [Griffiths Garage] ought to have been aware."

The RMS earlier this week used its victories against Griffiths Garage and Rapid Access to warn companies of the consequences of damaging state-owned infrastructure. It says the court’s decision is first time a road compensation order had been issued under chain of responsibility.

Bookmark and Share





You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook