Dropped charges wrong time for COR complacency: SARTA

Regulatory framework has changed since Adelaide case was undertaken

Dropped charges wrong time for COR complacency: SARTA
Charges were dropped at Adelaide's District Court


The dropping of charges against a truck driver whose sewage truck’s brakes failed, with fatal consequences, is a green light only for caution and compliance, the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) warns.

Driver Darren Hicks, employed by the then-Transpacific waste company, was at the truck’s wheel when it went out of control down the South Eastern Freeway, ploughing into three other vehicles and killing two.

Prosecutors have decided not to proceed with the charges but it appears reception of the news amongst elements in the trucking industry has spurred SARTA to comment.

Read about the legal aftermath of the crash, here

"The charges in this particular case were dropped because of a report that found that the driver and the owners of the truck did not know the brakes were faulty and so they can’t be held accountable," the organisation says.

"Some in the industry, probably far too many who listen to the CB rumour mill, may welcome this decision and see it as a signal that drivers and operators can’t be held accountable effectively, so it’s ‘business as usual’ for them at least.

"Don’t make the serious mistake of thinking that because it is completely irrelevant and wrong."

SARTA points to four aspects of the case as a cure to such thinking:

  • the case was being prosecuted under the criminal law and not under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) and its Chain of Responsibility (COR) provisions.
  • this case preceded the new COR reforms that came into effect just two months ago on October 1
  • the new COR provisions of the HVNL now include the missing piece of the safety and compliance puzzle; roadworthiness is now fully covered by COR and all parties in the chain are fully accountable
  • the new COR HVNL provisions actually impose a very strong ‘Positive’ Duty of Care on all parties to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable they take steps to ensure the safety of their transport activities.

SARTA points industry participants to the Master Industry Code of Practice (MICP) for those needing a proper understanding of the accountability and compliance.


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