Haulage company's maintenance record protects against lawsuit


Ambrose Haulage found not to have breached duty in truck driver injury

Haulage company's maintenance record protects against lawsuit
Vehicle maintenance is seen as crucial to an employer's safety duties

 

A haulage company’s rigorous vehicle maintenance program has safeguarded it against a truck driver’s injury damages claim.

The 59-year-old driver claimed use of a long-distance Kenworth fuel truck with defective suspension while working for Ambrose Haulage (AH) caused debilitation in both his shoulders.

However, the company's stringent service regime, along with evidence from other drivers and its mechanic, was enough to show it did not breach its safety duties.

The Brisbane District Court heard that, around the time the driver started at AH in 2014, the company bought a brand new Kenworth T409.

His role included transporting loads of 65 to 85 tonnes of fuel over long distances, such as round trips from Goondiwindi to Brisbane.

He claimed that, in 2017, with the Kenworth approaching 1 million kilometres, its springs were deteriorated, causing the ride to bottom out on rough surfaces and "the front end of the truck would pound back and rip back through my arms".

AH purchased replacements for the Kenworth, but did not install them until 2018.

It was accused of failing to provide safe plant and equipment, and a breach of duty by allowing Durkin to continue driving the vehicle despite having knowledge of his complaints.


Recently a driver proved a defective seat led to his debilitating back injury


However, AH was able to avoid liability on a number of fronts.

It highlighted the Kenworth road-train was 90-tonne rated, with an eight bag air suspension system and a $5,000 "ergonomically sound top of the range driver’s seat".

It was serviced between 20,000 and 25,000 kilometres, despite a manufacturer recommendation of 50,000km, and was in good working order.

The suspension was checked by Dillon Mechanical at each service and found to be in proper working order, with the mechanic saying if he owned the truck he would not have changed it at the time, though the company nonetheless bought a new system.

AH also highlighted the Kenworth did not cause discomfort to any other person driving it.

Judge Jarro preferred the defence’s argument.

"There is no evidence apart from [the driver's] to support a finding that there was something defective about the Kenworth’s springs/suspension which warranted its replacement or that the defendant was in breach of duty by causing him to be driving the Kenworth in the circumstances alleged," Jarro notes.

"There is no independent evidence that the springs/suspension were deteriorated, in a state of disrepair or bad repair.

"When the suspension was ultimately replaced (which it seems was done solely to appease Mr Durkin), Mr Dillon did not observe any material difference between the old and the new system."

Though ultimately not required as a key factor in the case, the court also heard of a "significant component of age and activity related degeneration" to the driver's condition.

 

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