Driver jailing prompts chain of responsibility plea

Senator Glenn Sterle says fatal accident reports must stretch beyond driver conduct and inexperience

Driver jailing prompts chain of responsibility plea
Glenn Sterle


Federal opposition transport spokesman senator Glenn Sterle has once more illuminated industry’s shortcomings to the Australian Senate in a wide-ranging speech that takes aim at recidivist operators, training standards and safety inaction.

Sterle statements centre on the case of inexperienced driver Samandeep Singh, who was recently jailed after knowingly driving a truck with defective brakes when he fatally struck police officer D'Arne De Leo in 2017.

Singh was sentenced to a minimum 28-months’ jail after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

While Singh’s punishment was widely reported, largely escaping public attention has been the circumstances of his training and employment, and the compliance record of his employer, Ermes Transport.

Court records show Singh completed a heavy rigid vehicle licence in August 2016 after a one-day course and then did another one-day training course with Civic Transport, which Ermes contracted to.

The document also reports "in common with virtually all of the fleet owned by that company, it [the truck] was inadequately maintained by the owner [Dionysios Vangelas]".  

Reports say Vangelas’ 11 truck fleet was examined in the aftermath and 10 were issued with defect notices.

That, however, is not enough scrutiny, according to Sterle.

"The … truck was owned by Ermes Transport, and they had a record of shoddy maintenance by an unqualified mechanic," he says.

"But can you believe the trucking company was not investigated.

"How many other employees have been forced to drive trucks where they knew work had been done by 'shoddy mechanics' — they're not my words; that's the quote in the report.

"How many other drivers were told, 'Just get in the truck and go.'

"I can't believe that this trucking company, for all I know, could still be out there. They're still registered. That doesn't mean a thing."

"Where did the licence come from? How did that man get his licence? Who did this supposed training? Who passed him? How does this happen?"

In an enquiry to Victoria Police, a spokesperson says the case is still within the appeal window and as such it will not comment on the matter.

Owner//Driver has been unable to make contact with Ermes Transport.

Similar to his campaign against Hari Om Transport last year, following a high-profile truck crash, Sterle seeks more accountability for elusive operators who seek to gain advantage through maintenance or payment shortcuts, or phoenixing activity.

Read Senator Glenn Sterle's 2019 speech to the Senate

He threatens to put other known offenders on public notice in the Senate.

"We raise the issues of how qualified our truck drivers are — I'm not even talking about wage theft or anything else yet — and how safe those vehicles are on the road.

"The majority of the road transport industry — not all of them — are very decent, hardworking men and women, but unfortunately we have a minority like the grubs at Ermes Transport — and I'm coming back to name more.

"I'm sending the message out to all Australian trucking companies about Ermes Transport — whoever that is.

"There are sickos in this nation who get rewarded by changing their company name.

"I'm going to save that, because I've got a list of them and they're all going to get named in this Senate before I leave.

"They must be put on a do-not use register."

Sterle’s approach is born out of his lack of confidence in current chain of responsibility legislation, which, he says, doesn’t go far enough to adequately address industry’s safety deficiencies.

"Deaths at work in trucks on the road should not be the price of doing business," he says.

"Where is it in our psyche that it is wrong to crunch down on those who are doing the wrong thing when it comes to heavy vehicles or any vehicles on the road?

"The chain of responsibility — how long have we been talking about this? Thirty years?

"The chain of responsibility was going to be the thing that fixes everything, but what has it done?

"I think there have been four prosecutions."

Sterle takes a final swipe at the federal government, which he accuses of disregarding the findings of his Aspects of Road safety in Australia parliamentary inquiry.

"A lot of the work on the road Safety inquiry was channelled towards the poor condition of a lot of vehicles — heavy vehicles and trucks — on the road.

"Not only that, but we uncovered corruption in training — we'll call it training —  where unscrupulous ratbags had lied, cheated, stolen and done whatever they could to take money and fork out very poor training and then have a connection where they could get these drivers their licences, and you know where it went from there.

"Three years later . . . as the chair of the RRAT [Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport] committee, I'm still waiting for the government to come back and respond to the report."


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