Company fined $490,000 after milk tanker tragedy

A transport company has been convicted and fined a total of $490,000 following the 2018 death of a truck driver in Gippsland.
News article published

Wednesday 08 Jun 2022

Industries and topics
  • Transport, logistics and warehousing
  • Work-related driving

Peter Stoitse Transport Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Latrobe Valley County Court today to two charges of failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.

The company was fined $300,000 for failing to provide a safe system of work and $150,000 for failing to provide information, instruction or training.

It was also fined a further $40,000 after pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to notify WorkSafe of another incident.

In May 2018, the truck driver died when the milk tanker he was operating rolled onto its side while travelling around a bend at Leongatha.

An investigation found despite nine previous rollovers since 2009, Peter Stoitse Transport had failed to provide its drivers with detailed information, instruction or supervised training in driving milk tankers carrying dynamic loads.

The court also heard that a subsequent inspection of vehicles at the company's Leongatha depot in July 2018 saw major defect notices issued for four of five prime movers and four of five tanker trailers inspected, requiring them to immediately be taken off the road.

WorkSafe alleged it was reasonably practicable for Peter Stoitse Transport to ensure their drivers were properly trained and to adopt a safe system of work to ensure their milk tankers were maintained in a safe mechanical condition.

In September 2018, the company did not notify WorkSafe following a separate rollover at Echuca that left another driver needing hospital treatment for a serious laceration.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the company had shown a clear disregard for the safety of its drivers.

"Any vehicle used by a worker as part of their job is considered to be a workplace and employers therefore have a duty to ensure they are kept in a condition that is safe and without risks to health," Dr Beer said.

"Tragically, two workers have been killed in vehicle accidents so far this year and WorkSafe will continue to take strong enforcement action against those duty holders refusing to keep their workers safe on the road."

To manage work-related vehicle risks employers should:

  • Ensure appropriate safe systems of work are in place and that these are regularly monitored, reviewed and, if necessary, revised.
  • Ensure regular vehicle inspections, servicing and maintenance are undertaken by suitably competent persons in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Ensure pre-operations checks are conducted daily on essential components such as brakes, steering, tyres (including pressure), indicators, oil leaks and suspension and have defects rectified by competent persons.
  • Not allow untrained, unlicensed or inexperienced people to operate vehicles.
  • Implement a system to ensure people are competent to conduct the work - this should include instructions, information about the work, mentoring and assessment, toolbox training and refresher training even for experienced employees.
  • Establish appropriate rules and standards for safe road use (including speed limits for travel and manoeuvres) taking into account any load factor of a vehicle, including movement of liquid and its effect on the stability of a vehicle, increased breaking distances due to the surge of liquid within a tank and changing environments and conditions.
  • Communicate all safety information to drivers and others (eg load information for those responsible for loading and driving vehicles) to enable them to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.