Company fined $210,000 after truck tragedy

A Wodonga-based mechanic has been convicted and fined $210,000 following a fatal truck crash that claimed three lives in 2014.


Heavy Mechanics Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Wodonga Country Court yesterday after being found guilty in June 2021 of a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that people other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

In August 2014, a petrol tanker serviced by the company de-coupled on the Wodonga-Yackandandah Road at Staghorn Flat.

The detached trailer crossed the road and struck two cars travelling in the opposite direction, killing all three occupants including a four-year-old child.

A WorkSafe investigation found the tow-eye coupling that connected the prime mover and trailer, which at the time of the incident had been used for more than three years and 350,000 kilometres, was worn to excess and had failed under load.

The court heard Heavy Mechanics had serviced the truck just days before the incident, including testing the tow-eye coupling, however, this did not involve an accurate visual inspection and there was no testing conducted when the truck was detached from the trailer, which limited the ability to inspect the parts involved.

A jury found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have conducted more accurate testing and inspections, which would have revealed the wear and tear to the coupling.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the company's failure to do so had led to a tragic loss of life.

"This is an absolutely horrific incident that not only claimed three lives but left countless others continuing to deal with grief and trauma," Dr Beer said.

"What this case highlights is the terrible human cost of failing to follow the most basic of workplace safety procedures, including a thorough maintenance program and rigorous inspections of heavy vehicles."

Dr Beer said there had already been a number of deaths and serious injuries from road-related workplace incidents so far this year.

"It's critical that duty holders using our roads consider not only the potential risks to themselves and their workers, but also the potential catastrophic impacts on other road users or members of the public," she said.

"WorkSafe is committed to reducing workplace harm on our roads and will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against those ignoring their obligations."