Truck driver 'under pressure' to deliver may have fallen asleep at the wheel

James Poulter might have fallen asleep at the wheel when his truck and trailer rolled in June.

James Poulter might have fallen asleep at the wheel when his truck and trailer rolled in June.

A self-employed truck driver who crashed on the alternate highway was caught breaking the law nearly every day for two months trying to deliver his loads on time.

James Poulter Transport owner James Robert Poulter, 53, told police he might have fallen asleep at the wheel when his truck and trailer rolled in June.

He was carrying a shipping container east on State Highway 63 about 6am on June 22 when the truck drifted left, hit the grass verge and rolled into some trees, about 30 kilometres west of Blenheim.

Trucks were forced to take the alternate inland highway after the earthquake closed the coastal road from Picton to ...
ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Trucks were forced to take the alternate inland highway after the earthquake closed the coastal road from Picton to Christchurch. (File pic)

Poulter received minor injuries and a crane had to remove the truck from the side of the road.

READ MORE: Truck crashes and rolls off State Highway 63 in Marlborough

Poulter told police it was possible he fell asleep at the wheel, a police summary said.

Poulter operated his transport company from Renwick, delivering for linehaul company Toll Group on the alternate Picton to Christchurch highway after State Highway 1 was closed by the November earthquakes.

Police received several complaints from the public about his business following the earthquake and launched an investigation.

They discovered he falsified 75 logbook entries and omitted 122 entries. He worked too many hours and did not have enough breaks nearly every day in March and April, the summary said.

Poulter drove up to nine hours straight without a 30-minute break. Truck drivers were meant to take breaks every five hours and 30 minutes.

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When a major fire closed State Highway 7 in Culverden on March 1, Poulter worked nearly 18 hours in total, driving from Blenheim to Christchurch and back along the West Coast. Truck drivers were meant to work a maximum of 13 hours each day.

He would work up to 13 days in a row before taking a 24-hour break, breaching the 70-hour maximum work week by racking up nearly 134 hours behind the wheel.

Poulter told police he was under pressure to get loads delivered. He accepted he could have refused to take jobs as he was self-employed.

Poulter admitted careless driving at the Blenheim District Court on Monday.

He also admitted representative charges of falsifying logbook records, failure to update the logbook, working too long without a break, working too many hours in a work day, failure to have enough rest, and working too many days in a row.

His lawyer Nick McKessar said Poulter had his heavy vehicle licence suspended after the crash, preventing him from working. He had since completed a course on logbooks.

Judge David Ruth said there was no-one else involved in the crash and Poulter had already suffered as a result of his offending, so he convicted and discharged him for the careless driving charge.

He fined Poulter $500 for falsifying logbook entries and failure to update the logbook.

The remaining charges of working too many hours and not taking enough breaks were very serious, Judge Ruth said.

"These rules are implemented for the purpose of road safety."

However, Judge Ruth accepted that disqualification from driving was a significant penalty for a professional truck driver.

He fined Poulter a further $500 and disqualified him from driving heavy vehicles for two months from July 6, which meant he had already served the disqualification and could go back to work after sentencing.

 - The Marlborough Express

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