Truck driver wins appeal over fatal crash

·2-min read

A 68-year-old truck driver whose vehicle collided with a bus on a sweeping bend south of Brisbane killing the driver will walk free after a successful appeal against his sentence.

Ronald Trevor Gallaty was handed down a three-year jail sentence last year, but it was to be suspended after he served 12 months.

The Queensland Appeal Court on Wednesday ordered instead that he receive a three-year prison sentence suspended immediately.

Bus driver Peter Bohlsen died after a tipping trailer attached to Gallaty's truck veered onto the other side of the road, colliding head-on south of Brisbane on November 17, 2016.

The incident shortly after 9am on a bend on Waterford Tamborine Road at Yarrabilba which has an 80km/h speed limit.

But shortly before the bend, drivers are advised to take the corner at 40km/h.

One of two passengers on the council bus was thrown into the windscreen, hitting the glass with his head.

Mr Bohlsen was critically injured in the crash and died days later in hospital.

The central issue at the trial was that the brakes of the tip trailer activated, locking up immediately prior to the collision.

The Crown case was that an automatic stability control mechanism on the truck activated because Gallaty was travelling into the bend at an excessive speed.

But the defence argued it was possible the trailer brakes locked up when a different brake system on the truck activated after incorrectly identifying the bus as an obstruction.

Gallaty was convicted after a judge-only trial in August last year.

The Appeal Court judges found the facts of the case supported a conclusion that Gallaty's dangerous operation of the truck, by entering the bend at an excessive speed, caused Mr Bohlsen's death.

But they disagreed with the sentencing judge's finding that Gallaty had "a cavalier attitude to operating ... vehicles at a safe speed".

"A traffic history containing six speeding offences over a 25-year period, in the context of a professional truck driver working full-time in the heavy vehicle industry for a period of 30 years, does not support findings that the applicant had a habit of driving his heavy vehicle beyond the limits of its safe operational capacity, or that he had a cavalier attitude to operating that vehicle at a safe speed," the Appeal Court judges said in their judgment published on Wednesday.

Gallaty's mature years, lack of criminal history and limited traffic history, genuine remorse and retirement from operating heavy vehicles after the crash were taken into account in immediately suspending the three-year jail sentence.

Gallaty is disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for two years from the date of his conviction.