Trucking company owner convicted of causing death of employee driver


A driver died when the brakes on his truck failed. The company’s owner has now been convicted of manslaughter.

 

The owner of a South Australian trucking company who put his driver behind the wheel of a truck with dodgy brakes has been held responsible for his death.

The South Australian Supreme Court convicted Peter Francis Colbert, who runs Colbert Transport, of manslaughter in relation to the death of Robert Brimson in March 2014, News Limited reports.

Brimson was travelling on Main South Road at Happy Valley when the truck’s brakes failed, causing him to crash into a pole.

The court heard that Colbert received repeated warnings to fix the brakes on the 1994 model Mitsubishi tautliner Brimson was instructed to drive, but did not act.

As News Limited reports, the case represents the first time an owner of a company has been held liable for the death of an employee because of workplace negligence.

It says the court was told Brimson tried to use his brakes 11 times before the accident.

The ABC reports Colbert was also convicted for endangering the life of another employee, who drove the same truck two days before Brimson’s fatal accident and also experienced brake failure.

According to News Limited, Colbert denied claims he received multiple warnings to fix the truck’s brakes and that he relied on his mechanic to maintain them.

Colbert pleaded not guilty to the charges of manslaughter and endangering life.

Brimson had only been working for Colbert Transport for 10 days before the accident occurred, the ABC says.

"That vehicle had a history of brake failures which were brought to the attention of the accused on a number of occasions and, despite that, the accused deliberately failed to deal with those reported failures," prosecutor Tim Preston says.

"He still directed the deceased to get into the cabin of that truck.

"In my submission, that truck was a death trap."

Preston says Colbert did not take any steps to repair the truck.

The bookkeeper for Colbert Transport, Eryn Williams, gave evidence the faulty truck caught fire one month before Brimson’s accident while Colbert was behind the wheel, the ABC reports.

Williams says Colbert told her he did not have money to fix the brakes and he used a ball bearing in the brake line to stop fluid from leaking.

Colbert Transport drivers reported hearing air hissing from the vehicle and another had to use gears to slow the truck down because the brakes were poor.

Colbert denied conversations about faulty brakes took place, the ABC reports.

"There was never a significant drop in air pressure during the time I was driving the truck," Colbert told the court.

"There was no need for me to look at the brakes because there was no report of any slight issue."

Sentencing submissions are due to be heard in August.

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