A LOGISTICS FIRM has lost a Labour Court case after it was accused of supplying an employee with a faulty device to measure the driver’s rest breaks.
William Houston, who worked for Waterford-based Mark Lonergan Transport Limited as a heavy goods vehicle driver, previously had his complaint quashed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) because it was not “well-founded”.
However, following Houston’s appeal of the WRC’s decision to the Labour Court, the initial ruling was overturned and the company has been ordered to pay the worker €2,500.
In his complaint, the driver claimed his employer was in breach of the European regulations that grant statutory rest breaks to mobile road transport workers.
The regulations outline that a driver’s working week shall not exceed 60 hours, among other restrictions. EU laws also note that trucks must be fitted with tachographs, which record driving times and distances, to help enforce rest breaks.
Houston claimed his tachograph was faulty and that he worked an average of 65 to 70 hours per week and rarely received his statutory breaks.
In response to the complaint, Mark Lonergan Transport Limited said that it complied with all of its obligations EU regulations.
At the Labour Court hearing, representatives for Mark Lonergan Transport said the company had gone into liquidation since the earlier WRC case.
However when the court tried to contact the liquidator, the company’s representative said there was no liquidation and the firm would participate in the hearing.
The driver’s complaints to the Labour Court centred around issues with a digital tachograph fitted to the vehicle he was assigned to drive.
He argued that the device defaulted to ‘rest mode’ whenever the motor was idle, even if the vehicle was running. He added that the normal practice was for the tachograph to default to ‘other work’ rather than ‘rest’.
He said since the tachograph recorded periods of work as periods of rest, the device could not be relied upon as an accurate record of the time he spent at work and the time he spent resting.
The driver also complained that he wasn’t in a position to take statutory breaks because of the time pressure he was under to complete deliveries.
He said he was expected to take his breaks while waiting to be loaded or unloaded, or while queuing
An expert reviewer of tachograph records gave evidence for the company, saying that the data from the device did not disclose an infringement of the regulations. However, the expert said that he did not examine the device in the truck driven by the complainant.
He added that the driver did have an option to reset the tachograph to ‘other work’ mode if it defaulted to rest and that it was his duty under the regulations to do so.
The company’s manager, Mark Lonergan, told the court he occasionally drove the truck driven by Houston. He said the tachograph operated normally and noted the driver never complained about a faulty tachograph to the firm.
He said he did not put excessive pressure on his drivers and that the driver took his statutory rest breaks. Lonergan added that he complied with all EU regulations because the consequences of not doing so were too severe to ignore.
However the court examined the tachograph records submitted by the company and found that the data was consistent with the driver’s evidence.
The court also noted that the case was adjourned to give the company a chance to have the tachograph in question examined, but an expert did not inspect the device.
However, it also noted that the driver was somewhat responsible for the production of any inaccurate records because he did not notify his employer of the issue.
On this basis, the court ruled in Houston’s favour because it found his evidence more reliable than the company’s account. The Labour Court ruled that the firm was in breach of the regulations and order the company to pay the worker €2,500 in compensation.