A transport company has been convicted of the most serious offence available under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), being a category 1 offence, and its Managing Director convicted of failing to comply with his due diligence obligations.
The charges were laid by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) in September 2021 following an extensive investigation by Victoria Police through Taskforce Paragon.
Taskforce Paragon was established to investigate an incident on the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne, in which a heavy vehicle hit and killed four Victoria Police officers while they were conducting a roadside intercept on 22 April 2020.
NHVR Director of Prosecutions Belinda Hughes said this will be the first time a local court has issue a fine of this magnitude, reflecting the severity of the breach.
“The company was fined a total of $2.31 million and is prohibited from operating for 12 months – this is the highest fine we’ve ever seen under the HVNL,” Hughes said.
“This case demonstrates the national reach of the HVNL, with the company and Managing Director based in New South Wales, but the incident occurring in Victoria.
“This outcome, along with the record $22,000 fine and supervisory order handed to the company’s Managing Director, sends a strong message to those taking the deadly risk of breaching their primary duty.
“Executives need to ensure they have effective systems in place to support fatigue management across their business and to empower all levels of their organisation to take fatigue management seriously.
“As we heard in court ‘no one should have to worry that they or their loved one will not come home from work’.”
NHVR CEO Sal Petroccitto said the organisation is committed to ensuring the safety of all road users, with this significant result set to influence safety outcomes into the future.
“Chain of Responsibility requirements form part of the HVNL primary safety duty and executives are required to exercise due diligence to ensure a company complies with this duty,” Petroccitto said.
“This tragedy is a sobering reminder of the consequences that can occur when there is a failure to ensure safe transport activities.
“Fatigue is one of the leading factors that affects safety and heavy vehicle crashes, and this catastrophic incident exemplifies what can happen when fatigue management requirements are blatantly ignored.
“Our thoughts are with the families of the four officers involved.”
The matter was heard on Friday 11 November at Downing Centre Court in New South Wales.