Paul Endycott, the NSW Compliance Head recently highlighted the differences in punishment for truck drivers in comparison with consequences for operators and customers following fatal crashes.
Mr Endycott said that customers and operators often get off too lightly whereas drivers bear the full might of the law after an accident.
The NSW Compliance Head highlighted a specific case which took place in 2010 which involved a Sydney truck and dog company. The company, although no longer in existence got off lightly compared to the truck driver who received 10 years in prison for the accident which killed a cyclist and a dog.
The driver’s ability had been impaired by a combination of cannabis toxicity and fatigue.
The company and its principal director were found to have “simply ignored” driving hours regulations for many years and received fines of less than $90,000. The judge said that the charges against the company and director weren’t directly related to the fatal accident.
The incident was part of a case study in a recent submission to a national review of chain of responsibility law (COR) undertaken by Transport for NSW, of which Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) form part.
RMS general manager of heavy vehicle compliance, Paul Endycott, who led the investigation into the accident had this to say,
“The South Penrith Sand and Soil case shows the contrast between long jail sentences for drivers at fault in fatal crashes, and consequences for the operators and customers involved,”
“There were thousands of fatigue breaches,” he says. “We interviewed all the drivers and protected them under the law by directing them to answer questions.”
Mr Endycott explained that COR law was to blame for the seemingly minor penalty incurred by the company and its owner. He said the laws are too complex and prescriptive. He explained:
“If we had been able to charge them once, under a breach of a general duty to provide safety and include the thousands of incidents in the particulars of the charge, then the court could look at one charge and appropriately deliver a suitable sentence in response.”
“But what they have to do is look at each incident and then deal with them in totality.”
“Judges and magistrates are compelled to get bogged down in the fine detail, and can lose sight of the overall seriousness of the dangerous company behaviour.”
[Tweet “Mr Endycott said that COR law was to blame for the minor penalty incurred by the company”]
Mr Endycott says that individuals higher up in the chain often say they are unaware of driver actions, speeding and/or driving while fatigued but he says that is because they don’t ensure basic compliance. He explained:
“We must continue with this work to ensure companies are not attempting to gain a criminal commercial advantage over compliant companies by breaking the law.”