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Canadian Safety Reporter
Oct 12, 2017

Trucking company sends driver packing after multiple safety violations

Driver’s repeated breaches of safety protocol put company in unsatisfactory rating with government regulators, clients
By Jeffrey R. Smith
    
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A British Columbia adjudicator has upheld the dismissal of a truck driver who accumulated a significant number safety protocol breaches in a relatively short period of time.

Francois Lachaine was a truck driver who started working for Casey Transport, a long-haul trucking company specializing in refrigerated products based in Abbotsford, B.C., in 2006. He started out as part of a two-person team that drove trucks filled with cargo back-and-forth between B.C. and Quebec. He was considered a hard-working driver and took pride in his work, with one co-worker remarking that “it’s a passion for him. He is a machine. He eats asphalt.”

Casey Transport was subject to National Safety Code standards that imposed duties and limitations on the conduct of drivers and trucking companies to ensure the safe operation of commercial vehicles. Drivers were required to keep logbooks to ensure compliance could be monitored and there were limits on how long drivers could drive before taking a rest. The code had a system of points which kept track of the safety performance of both drivers and the trucking companies.

On May 7, 2013, Casey Transport issued a written warning to Lachaine for refuelling in locations with higher fuel prices and not having maintenance pre-approved. The next day, the company issue him a second written warning for safety violations. This warning was for speeding (127 kph) on March 13, driving on a closed highway on April 19, and speeding again (136 kph) on May 7. The second warning stated that Lachaine must follow all legal speed limit regulations and “further infractions will not be tolerated and will result in further job action and possible termination.”

A short time later, the company learned Lachaine had been speeding again (129 kph on May 20) and had submitted log sheets saying he was driving on two days for which he had already submitted log sheets showing he was off and resting. Lachaine was issued a written warning dated May 21 that falsified logs were illegal and against company policy. It once again said “further infraction will not be tolerated” and could result in termination.

In November 2013, Casey Transport’s record of performance under the code came under scrutiny and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure audited the company’s record. The audit concluded that Casey Transport had a problem with driver safety violations, so the company increased its emphasis on safety and cracked down on drivers who had safety issues.

Over the next two years, Lachaine received verbal reprimands for one speeding ticket and a few minor logbook violations, but overall the company felt his safety record improved.

In March 2015, he stopped being part of a two-person team and began driving alone. Shortly after this development in early April 2015, Lachaine received tickets for speeding and a logbook violation, which led to a verbal reprimand. This was followed by another verbal reprimand on Sept. 13 after he was ticketed for running a red light.

A few days after the red light violation, on Sept. 17, Lachaine was stopped for a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure roadside inspection. He was unable to produce log pages for the previous 14 days, which was a violation of National Safety Code rules. The ministry requested the log sheets from Casey Transport and gave Lachaine a warning but no fine. Casey Transport then gave Lachaine another verbal reprimand.

On Sept. 10, Lachaine went to a Loblaws facility in Calgary to pick up cargo with a passenger in his truck. Loblaws was an important client and it required everyone entering the facility to wear safety equipment such as a safety vest and steel-toed boots, but Lachaine’s passenger didn’t have safety footwear so the passenger was denied entry. Lachaine’s truck was in a one-way lane with other trucks lined up behind him, so the security guard allowed Lachaine to enter the facility, make a U-turn, and exit.

However, after entering, Lachaine drove to the facility’s shipping office and told the person in charge of shipping he had been denied access and couldn’t take his load. The shipping clerk told him to take the load and he would talk to the security manager, so Lachaine spent between 30 and 45 minutes getting his load while his passenger remained in the truck, contrary to orders from security personnel. When Loblaws found out, it complained to Casey Transport about the safety breach, and required Lachaine take its dock safety program before his next dispatch.

Lachaine said the person in charge of shipping had given him permission to take the load but otherwise didn’t explain why he had ignored the security guard’s instructions and breached safety protocols. Casey Transport gave him a final written warning, advising him further violations would result in termination and Loblaws would ban him from its facilities and fine him $1,000 if he did it again.

On Dec. 20, 2015, Lachaine received a ticket for driving with a flat tire. He didn’t advise Casey Transport, but the company found out about it anyway. The company reviewed his logbooks from the past few months, which revealed other safety violations — such as not taking breaks as required by the National Safety Code rules — that resulted in an accumulation of nine active points in nine months. There were also clerical errors and missing information in the logbooks.

Driver’s safety record gave company poor safety rating

Lachaine’s active safety violation points in such a short time pushed Casey Transport into an unsatisfactory safety rating with the ministry, which led to the company losing a contract with a major client amounting to 75 per cent of its business. Lachaine wasn’t the only driver to accumulate active points that contributed to the bad safety rating, but his accumulation was several times the acceptable amount — carriers were only allowed to accumulate 1.75 points per truck per year.

Casey Transport terminated Lachaine’s employment based on his safety record and willingness to breach safety protocols despite warnings and reprimands. Lachaine challenged the dismissal, arguing the company condoned his misconduct by giving him assignments that couldn’t be completed on time without breaching safety protocols and falsifying logbooks.

The adjudicator found Lachaine provided no support for his claim that Casey Transport condoned and pressured him into breaching safety protocols to complete his assignments or that his loads couldn’t be delivered without making such breaches, despite the fact his loads were refrigerated and time-sensitive. In fact, the company gave him reprimands and warnings every time it learned of a breach, so cumulatively this should have made him realize Casey Transport didn’t want him to ignore safety requirements, said the adjudicator.

The adjudicator noted that there may have been some tolerance for safety breaches before 2013, but it was clear that once Casey Transport’s safety record came under scrutiny and was audited by the ministry, the company placed more emphasis on safety and didn’t tolerate breaches.

The adjudicator determined that Lachaine demonstrated a continued failure to ignore safety protocols over a short period of time, despite multiple warnings that his employment could be in jeopardy by doing so. In addition, he falsified his logs and didn’t acknowledge that he did anything wrong. Though Casey Transport didn’t suspend him before resorting to termination, the adjudicator felt the number of reprimands and warnings Lachaine received was sufficient. It upheld the termination and dismissed Lachaine’s complaint.

“Breaches of National Safety Code rules put a driver’s safety, the safety of other motorists and property at risk,” said the adjudicator. “The rate at which (Lachaine) was breaching safety protocols prior to his dismissal, the seriousness of the breaches, his failure to heed warnings and reprimands, the consequences of the breaches for the employer, (his) conduct in hiding his breaches and falsifying his logs and his complete failure to recognize that his conduct was problematic was enough to justify the dismissal.”

For more information see:

Lachaine and Casey Transport Ltd., Re, 2017 CarswellNat 3704 (Can. Lab. Code Adj.).
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