Companies are being reminded to take loading safety seriously following a judgement by the South Australian Magistrates Court.
Following an investigation and prosecution by the NHVR, a national company was convicted for a mass offence under the pre-1 October Heavy Vehicle National Law and fined $9900. The maximum penalty for this type of offence is a fine of $55,000.
In sentencing the company the Magistrate said that the maximum penalty “reflects the serious obligations cast upon prudent corporate entities, to treat those legal obligations seriously in the interests of road safety towards other road users and also their own employees and contractors”.
The Magistrate accepted that the overloading by the defendant “created an appreciable risk of harm to public safety and a serious risk of accelerated road wear”.
“The fact is that an overloaded truck would be more difficult to stop and manoeuvre if an emergency arose either at the worksite or on a public road,” he said.
The Magistrate described the matter as a case of “wilful blindness and “hopefulness” that was improper and falls far short of good corporate governance.
“The complete lack of oversight in this operation by the company falls far short of the standard expected by the law, the community and the courts. This is not a case of an innocent mistake or a misapprehension as to the company’s ever present and ongoing legal obligations in the heavy vehicle industry.”
NHVR Executive Director Statutory Compliance Ray Hassall said that the decision reinforced the importance of due diligence for all parties along the heavy vehicle supply chain.
“This is an important outcome for the heavy vehicle safety because it goes to the heart of issues around good governance and accountability within the chain of responsibility,” Ray said.
“Companies have a responsibility to ensure good loading practices, from the top down.
“Those at the top of the chain have the most power to implement good safety practices and they need to take that responsibility seriously.”
- The company in question had hired trucks to undertake roadworks. The truck was loaded and it was accepted that at the time of loading there was not operating, calibrated scales on either the truck or the loader.
- The person loading the truck was instructed to load a specific number of buckets in the hope of being within mass limits.
- The truck was then driven a short distance from the loading site where it was detected as exceeding the statutory mass limit by 120 per cent.
- The investigation by the NHVR uncovered evidence that on three occasions before the offending “checklists” had been submitted by a person using the loader, requesting that scales be made available for the loader.