Truck driver wears most of the blame for fatal crash

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Steve Skinner


Loading company and trucking operator were fined for COR breach, but truck driver faced jail time.

Truck driver wears most of the blame for fatal crash
KGB's load restraint failures caused the death of Leonie Darling.

 

A truck driver was put through the legal wringer after freight fell from a rig he was driving and killed someone, while the company responsible for loading the vehicle received a small fine.

New South Wales Police threw the book at driver Basil White after a steel girder slid off his truck and collided with the passing vehicle of Leonie Darling in 2011.

The 54-year-old Darling was travelling on the Mitchell Highway near Bathurst when the incident occurred. She died at the scene.

White, who was driving for Robbie Walker Transport when the accident happened, was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death, driving in a dangerous manner and manslaughter by criminal negligence.

He was found not guilty and cleared of all charges in April this year.

KGB Protective Coatings was the party tasked with loading the truck. In a separate court case, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) prosecuted it for a load restraint breach under chain of responsibility (COR).

During proceedings, it was revealed KGB used untrained staff to load the truck.

"The KGB staff who placed the load onto the vehicle were under the supervision of KGB. KGB staff were not trained in load restraint. KGB staff did not measure the dimension of the load," justice Peter Garling says.

He convicted KGB and fined it $18,150, along with ordering the firm to pay $25,000 to the RMS in court costs. It faced a maximum fine of $27,500.

 

A truck driver was put through the legal wringer after freight fell from a rig he was driving and killed someone.

Posted by Owner Driver on Tuesday, 29 September 2015

 

"If the load had been properly secured, such that it was unlikely to fall, as the legislation required, then Ms Darling’s death would not have happened," Garling says.

"I can only conclude that there was a failure by the company to address its legal obligations with respect to load restraint."

Garling found that the company’s actions caused Darling’s death and that KGB did not accept responsibility for its actions, despite pleading guilty to a load restraint offence.

"Except for the plea of guilty to the offences, there is no evidence that the company has accepted responsibility for its actions, nor has the company, other than by its plea, acknowledged any injury, loss or damage caused by its actions, nor is there any evidence that it has made any reparation for such injury, loss or damage as the statute requires," he says.

"I am not persuaded on the balance of probabilities that the mere entry of a plea indicates any remorse on the part of the company."

KGB used softwood timber as dunnage to support the load but the wood was defective and compressed during transit, causing the girder to slide off the truck.

Robbie Walker Transport supplied the wood but did not know it was defective.

The RMS prosecuted the company and its owner, Robert John Walker, for a load restraint breach under COR. Both parties pleaded guilty.

The company was convicted and fined $16,500, while Walker himself was convicted and fined $900. They were ordered to pay the RMS $20,000 in court costs.

The court was told the now-retired Walker had been involved in the transport industry since 1970 and that prior to the 2011 incident had never breached road safety or load restraint requirements.

"In his affidavit Mr Walker expresses deep remorse for the offence, and heartfelt sympathy for the family of the unfortunate Ms Darling," justice Peter Hidden, who sentenced Walker, says.

"He adds that he accepts full responsibility for the incident, and is ‘personally very affected’ by it. Indeed, this tragedy was a material factor in his decision to terminate his involvement in the transport industry."

 

You can read the full story in the October edition of Owner//Driver.

 

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