Truck driver 'takes big hit to reputation'

THE OWNER of a trucking business who fell asleep at the wheel of a loaded vehicle has kept his licence.

John Charles Bickley faced the Bendigo Magistrates Court over the incident at Goornong on August 26 last year.

The court heard Bickley, 45, had little sleep before getting behind the wheel of the truck with a load of chickens.

He had watched his children play football and undertaken activities around his home before starting work about 1am or 2am.

Bickley, who had been driving his own truck, fell asleep while travelling south on the Midland Highway and veered off the road about 2am.

He awoke during the crash and dragged himself from the vehicle after it had stopped before calling his partner, who had been travelling behind him.

Bickley received cuts, bruising and a cracked vertebrae, and about half of the chickens died.

“He’s lucky he’s not dead ... or others,” Magistrate David Faram said.

Defence lawyer Luke Docherty said it had been a “shocking experience for him” and said he had “backed off a little because of this incident”.

“It’s something he’s taken very, very, very seriously,” Mr Docherty said.  

“He’s taken quite a reputational hit to his business.”

Mr Faram said the incident had posed a major risk to other road users.

“This is every other motorist’s worse nightmare, a semi-trailer driver falling asleep because he’s exhausted,” he said.

Mr Docherty said his client had never fallen asleep before, to which the magistrate replied “it doesn’t matter”.

The court heard Bickley had since implemented changes at the business to avoid such incidents in the future.

The magistrate said he had been “somewhat conflicted” about imposing a punishment given Bickley’s “excellent” record.

“You avoided significant injury or worse to yourself and others,” Mr Faram said.  

“It is at one level inexcusable that you allowed yourself to drive this vehicle in these circumstances.

“However, you have an excellent record Mr Bickley.”

Bickley was convicted and fined $1200 plus costs for careless driving. 

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