Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Truckie who lost 10,000 litre tank unfairly dismissed

Photo / File
Photo / File

A truck driver who was warned about speeding before a 10,000 litre tank fell off the back of his truck has been awarded more than $4000 for unfair dismissal.

Norman Lowe was sacked from Bailey Tanks in Christchurch after two incidents, one involving speeding and the other an insecure load, in late November 2012.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) heard that earlier that month at a driver safety meeting managers had cautioned Mr Lowe not to speed.

About a week later, Mr Lowe received a speeding ticket. The managers warned him that another infringement could lead to disciplinary action.

Two days later, police fined Mr Lowe $600 after a 10,000 litre tank fell of the back of his truck. Mr Lowe accepted responsibility and offered to pay the fine.

A day later, Mr Lowe was pulled over for speeding but was not given a ticket.

The officer warned him to drive more slowly. He admitted that to his employer the same day.

At a disciplinary meeting the next day, Mr Lowe's managers claimed he had checked the insecure load and noticed it was "less than perfect".

However, rather than securing it, he decided to drive to a truck stop 13km away and secure it there.

Mr Lowe denied that, saying he had decided there was no need to tighten the straps on the load. However, he decided he would check the load again at the truck stop.

The managers sought Mr Lowe's reassurance he would not speed again.

He agreed he needed to follow the law, but would not promise not to speed again, saying: "I'm only human."

Mr Lowe was dismissed for serious misconduct a few days later.

ERA member Christine Hickey found Mr Lowe was unjustifiably dismissed on procedural grounds.

She said the company did not make it clear to him that he would be dismissed if he did not give an unconditional agreement not to speed again.

Ms Hickey ordered the company to pay Mr Lowe three months of lost wages and $7000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and hurt feelings.

However, she reduced those amounts by 40 per cent because of his contribution to the lost load, bringing the compensation amount down to $4200.

She ordered costs should be agreed by the parties.

- APNZ

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