Blen­ners charges dropped

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver - - Rob McKay

THE BLEN­NERS Trans­port case has run into the ground with the drop­ping of the re­main­ing charges against the com­pany, says Queens­land’s De­part­ment of Trans­port and Main Roads (TMR).

This state gov­ern­ment ac­tion against the firm looks un­likely to re- emerge. Blen­ners’ owner Les Blen­ner­has­sett and com­pany di­rec­tors in­volved have al­ways de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions and put up a staunch le­gal de­fence of their po­si­tion over three years.

The out­come fol­lows a se­ries of di­min­ish­ing sets of charges that came af­ter a 2012 de­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion that gained na­tional promi­nence when it formed part of the ABC Four Cor­ners pro­gram, ‘This Truck­ing Life’.

Le­gal ac­tion against man­age­ment and the com­pany came af­ter 45 driv­ers pleaded guilty to 148 fa­tiguere­lated charges and were fined a to­tal of $ 65,000.

They faced 742 charges on al­leged fa­tigue man­age­ment and chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity (COR) breaches in Fe­bru­ary 2014.

Th­ese were dropped in Au­gust 2014 with costs awarded against TMR but the de­part­ment then sought to pur­sue 53 new charges.

By Septem­ber 2015, this had fallen to eight charges and the case has fea­tured in a swathe of court rooms around the state.

The TMR’s lat­est Blen­ners move ap­pears, in part, to lessen risks from breaches al­leged to have oc­curred be­fore the ad­vent of the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law (HVNL) be­ing acted upon sub­se­quently but the de­part­ment in­sists there was a range of is­sues in­form­ing its lat­est de­ci­sion.

“In Fe­bru­ary 2017, the De­part­ment of Trans­port and Main Roads chose to dis­con­tinue the chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity lit­i­ga­tion against Blen­ners Trans­port first com­menced in 2014,” a de­part­ment spokesper­son tells Owner//Driver.

“TMR made the de­ci­sion af­ter con­sid­er­a­tion of spe­cific mat­ters such as the progress of the lit­i­ga­tion up to that point, that the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion in is­sue has now been re­pealed, and the level of Blen­ners’ com­pli­ance since the lit­i­ga­tion first com­menced.

“It is quite nor­mal as lit­i­ga­tion pro­gresses to give on­go­ing con­sid­er­a­tion to whether it is worth­while pro­gress­ing an ac­tion in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

“Fa­tigue and chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity mat­ters are now cov­ered by the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law, which is struc­tured quite dif­fer­ently.”

Pressed on what the move means for his­toric breaches, the de­part­ment elab­o­rated on its orig­i­nal re­sponse.

“As pre­vi­ously ad­vised, the pros­e­cu­tion was dis­con­tin­ued due to a com­bi­na­tion of as­sess­ing the progress of the lit­i­ga­tion up to that point, the fact that the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion in is­sue had now been re­pealed, and the level of Blen­ners com­pli­ance since the lit­i­ga­tion first com­menced,” the spokesper­son says.

“The re­peal of the pre­vi­ous leg­is­la­tion [the sub­ject of the lit­i­ga­tion] was only one mat­ter that was taken into ac­count.

“It is rel­e­vant, be­cause the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law is now the law of the land, and fu­ture cases will be de­cided on the ba­sis of that leg­is­la­tion.

“In­ter­cep­tions of Blen­ner’s Trans­port heavy ve­hi­cles be­tween Jan­uary 2014 to Fe­bru­ary 2017 were also taken into ac­count, with the com­pany’s com­pli­ance rate be­ing well in ex­cess of 90 per cent.

“The level of com­pli­ance and co­op­er­a­tion by a heavy ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tor or driver with Trans­port and Main Roads is a rel­e­vant con­sid­er­a­tion in com­pli­ance and en­force­ment de­ci­sions.”

Blen­ners and Four Cor­ners are yet to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Mean­while, with­out nam­ing names, the de­part­ment also gave a snap­shot of COR pros­e­cu­tions since 2015.

“Since Novem­ber 2015, we have, on be­half of the Na­tional Heavy Ve­hi­cle Reg­u­la­tor, com­menced nine chain of re­spon­si­bil­ity pros­e­cu­tions,” the de­part­ment says.

“Six have re­solved with the rel­e­vant party be­ing con­victed.

“In one case, the pros­e­cu­tion was dis­con­tin­ued fol­low­ing the re­ceipt, and ac­cep­tance, of a sub­mis­sion from the de­fen­dant, and there are two cases still be­fore the courts.”

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