A train worker had to jump to safety after a truck driver who had reportedly been driving for seven days straight lied on his logbooks, eventually causing a train crash as he raced to beat it across the train lines.
As the train collided with the freight truck which rolled on the train tracks, a wagon crushed the victim and broke his shoulder.
Rajinder Olakh, 36, was disqualified in the Whangārei District Court from driving for six months, disqualified from holding a class 25 licence for one month, fined $2000 and ordered to pay emotional reparation to the victim of $1000.
The Auckland-based owner-operator of his own commercial freight truck business appeared for sentencing yesterday on one charge of careless driving causing injury, one charge of a driver exceeding five and a half hours of continuous driving, one charge of the driver not having 10 hours of continuous break, one charge of driver exceeded 13 hours work time and one charge of producing a logbook containing false information.
On December 6, 2022, Olakh was driving his truck and trailer unit when he stopped at the Port Rd intersection in Whangārei to allow a shunter train and several wagons to cross.
The small train was carrying a driver in the rear and another worker in the front.
After the train passed, he came across the line and turned right with the train travelling parallel to Olakh who raced to get ahead knowing further down the road, the train line would cross the road again.
The next intersection was controlled by road and give way signs and Olakh attempted to beat the train across the tracks but failed, causing a collision as his truck rolled on the tracks.
The worker in the front of the train had to jump off the train as it collided with Olakh’s truck, derailing wagons with one falling on the victim and crushing his shoulder.
It was later discovered Olakh had been driving consistently for seven days before the collision, with no breaks, and had been falsifying his travel log.
Judge Deidre Orchard said the collision was a serious example of why truck drivers needed to take breaks.
“You were indicating you had taken a break when you hadn’t. There’s a good reason drivers are meant to take breaks and it’s to keep alert.
“That behaviour and the accident have led to a very serious accident. The victim could have been killed,” Judge Orchard said.
Shannon Pitman is a Whangārei based reporter for Open Justice covering courts in the Te Tai Tokerau region. She is of Ngāpuhi/ Ngāti Pūkenga descent and has worked in digital media for the past five years. She joined NZME in 2023.