Truck driver

Truck driver personally responsible for damage caused after using phone while driving

This decision examines whether a custodian (truck driver) owed a duty of care to a freight carrier and a truck owner and whether that duty of care was breached by illegally using their mobile device, failing to exercise due diligence, and by losing control of the truck, causing it to crash.

In question

  • The main issue in that case concerned the duty of care of a depositary for damage to property in its possession.


The first and second plaintiffs, who were freight carriers and truck owners respectively, sued the defendant driver for $ 581,991 because he lost control and crashed into a truck loaded with fruit while trying to answer their mobile device.

The self-represented defendant was a professional truck driver with over 30 years of experience. He was employed by Labor Hire QLD Pty Ltd, which provided its services to applicants. It was in the course of his employment that the Defendant came into possession of the Plaintiffs’ property and truck, making him a sub-custodian for remuneration with Labor Hire QLD Pty Ltd as custodian.

On September 18, 2019, the defendant was driving the truck on the Bruce Highway south of Ingham, when he received an incoming call on his cell phone. What followed was recorded on the cameras in the cab of the truck. Having failed to connect to the incoming call with his Bluetooth headset, the footage shows the accused looking down and sliding his phone with one hand, the other on the steering wheel. While doing this, the truck, which was traveling at a speed of about 60 mph (97 km / h), veered to the left of the road where the shoulder of the road sagged. The defendant attempted to correct the truck, but it rolled, seriously injuring the defendant and damaging the truck and its contents.

The defendant argued that the plaintiffs had breached their legal obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2011 (Qld) and contributory negligence in pressuring the defendant to forgo breaks to meet driving schedules, failing to provide hands-free technology, failing to provide the defendant with proper training as to the correct action to take if he received a call while driving, failing to equip the truck with lane departure warning and prevention technology and ensure the truck was not overloaded .

The decision at trial

The district court found that the defendant, as a sub-custodian, owed a duty of care to the plaintiffs and that he had breached this duty by illegally using his mobile device, failing to exercise due diligence and d attention and losing control of the truck, which caused it to crash. As a result, the plaintiffs suffered loss and damage to the goods and the truck, which were predictable and not too far away.

It was held that the plaintiffs had not breached any obligation to the defendant and that none of the allegations raised by the defendant caused or contributed to the accident.

The defendant was ordered to pay $ 545,312.25 in damages to the plaintiffs.

Implications for you

This is unusual because, although an employer is normally liable for the negligent or wrongful acts of its employee, there is nothing to prevent a third party concerned directly suing the employee, which has happened. produced in this case.

Blenner’s Transport & Anor v Dowling [2021] QDC 249