Australia, Transport News

NHVR hands down major primary duty breach fine

The NHVR has issued a big fine for an operator following a primary duty breach in early 2020

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has handed down more than $40,000 of fines to an operator and company over a primary duty breach.

The NHVR has prosecuted a company for a breach of primary duty after a vehicle veered across a road, collided with trees, rolled back to the centre of the road and spilled its cargo of live chickens onto a road in Cardigan, Victoria. 

The NHVR laid charges against the company and its supervisor following an investigation from Victoria Police for failing to have procedures in place to assess, monitor and manage a driver’s fitness for duty, including providing adequate training to prospective and current employees. 

Both the company and a supervisor from the company pleaded guilty to a category 2 offence for the February 2020 incident, under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). 

The driver of the vehicle was a prospective employee who was permitted to drive the heavy vehicle approximately 6.5 hours into a job interview. The interview started at 9.30pm on 6 February and the crash occurred at 7.30am the next morning.  

The court convicted and fined the company $35,000, while the supervisor was fined $6,500. This fine was imposed notwithstanding the fact that the company had spent more than $200,000 on improvements within the company since the offence. 

The Magistrate remarked that general deterrence remained a significant sentencing factor given public safety was put at risk.   

NHVR A/Director of Prosecutions Elim Chan says the incident could have been far worse and that the driver was lucky not to have been seriously injured or killed in the accident. 

“This prosecution sends a strong message that the courts will take breaching your primary duty seriously, to ensure the safety of transport activities,” Chan says. 

“Fatigue is an issue we are seeing having a big impact on drivers, resulting in serious injuries or death. Take your rest breaks – it’s just not worth the risk.” 

The NHVR assesses a fatigue management system based on the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS).  

NHVR Director of Operations Southern Region Steve Miller says the NHVR was working with industry to raise better awareness of the extreme risk that fatigue presents as part of the NHVR’s inform, educate and enforce approach. 

“Driving while feeling sleepy, physically or mentally tired, or lacking energy, is a major heavy vehicle safety hazard,” Miller says.

“Our aim is to have a strong engagement and education presence – from formal events to random roadside inspections – with a focus on promoting safe industry behaviour. 

“With the road toll spiking in almost every state and territory over the past 12 months, the safety of all drivers on the road is our number one priority.” 

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