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Transport manager jailed in ‘groundbreaking’ case after police deaths 

A transport company’s national operations manager has been found guilty of a category 1 Heavy Vehicle National Law offence for the first time in Australia. 

Cris Large of Connect Logistics, who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to three years’ jail on January 23 and hit with more than $100,000 in penalties and costs. 

The conviction relates to an April 2020 freeway crash in Melbourne that killed four police officers. 

The officers, who had stopped a speeding Porsche driven by Richard Pusey, were hit by a truck driven by Mohinder Singh, who was fatigued and had consumed drugs. 

“The sentence sends a clear message to parties within the supply chain – the law will be enforced,” NTI Supply Chain Technical Manager Aaron Louws said.  

“What also makes this case groundbreaking is that the defendant was convicted as an ‘operator’ of a heavy vehicle for their failure to fulfil their primary duty.” 

An operator is responsible for controlling or directing a heavy vehicle. The court held this could include the immediate manager or supervisor of a driver, and some senior management.  

The Sydney-based transport company and two of its executives have also been convicted over the incident, and Singh is serving 18 years and six months in jail after admitting four counts of culpable driving causing death, and drug trafficking. 

Mr Louws says there were many examples of non-compliance by Large, including around recruitment, screening, training of new workers, drug testing, recording work and rest time, and adhering to work and rest requirements. 

Implementation and enforcement of company processes “never happened”, he says.  

“If they had, it’s possible this incident may not have occurred. We can all learn from this situation. It’s important to prove our standards are in place, and as an industry ... do everything reasonably practicable to ensure this can’t happen again.”  

The industry regulator says the case shows a shared responsibility for drivers to be fit.  

“The duty rests on the company and senior management just as much as the driver,” National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Director of Prosecutions Belinda Hughes said. 

The regulator’s Director Statutory Compliance Raymond Hassall has challenged “all companies to critically review and strengthen their fatigue management practices”. 

In November, Connect Logistics was fined $2.3 million following a guilty plea. One executive was fined more than $70,000, plus $60,000 in legal fees, and another was fined $22,500 and made subject of a supervisory intervention order. 

The immediate supervisor of the driver is awaiting sentencing. 

“It’s a reminder to individuals that the regulator may bring charges against them personally, as opposed to only prosecuting their employer,” Mr Louws said. 

NTI tells the complexity of the case means the insurance implications are similarly complicated. 

Large, who falsified timesheets, will be eligible for release in January next year.