The Colbert Transport case underlines that vehicle maintenance responsibility stays with company owners, managers and directors despite delegation of such work to mechanics, Holding Redlich partner and transport lawyer Danella Wilmshurst warns.
Peter Colbert, the director of Adelaide-based Colbert Transport, was found guilty of manslaughter following driver Robert Brimson’s death in a crash due to faulty brakes.
In response to evidence in the South Australian Supreme Court that he had been warned repeatedly to fix his trucks, Colbert said he relied on the company mechanic for vehicle maintenance.
“The importance of company directors taking responsibility for the safety of company vehicles and implementing a regular and effective maintenance program was made tragically apparent from the circumstances of this case,” Wilmshurst says in a commentary on the case.
“It is also a decision that confirms that it is not an adequate response for a director of a company to delegate full responsibility for vehicle safety to a mechanic or others with a responsibility for vehicle maintenance.”
Despite the sometimes broad and tough provisions of national regulations and the push to expand Chain Of Responsibility (COR) to maintenance, these were now a feature of the case, Wilmshurst notes.
“The prosecution of the company director in this case was brought under the South Australian criminal statute and was not under the Heavy Vehicle National Law’s (HVNL’s), COR regime,” she writes.
“Although the COR regime carries heavy penalties for proven severe and critical breaches of road transport safety laws, it does not include its own offences for manslaughter or endangering life, and does not presently extend COR requirements to matters of roadworthiness and vehicle maintenance.”