A recent decision handed down by the European Court of Justice could have a big impact on the Irish Haulage Industry, and also requires urgent clarification by our own Dept. of Transport, leading insurance broker, Wright Insurance has warned.
The decision concerns an insurance claim brought by a man in Slovenia, who was injured when a tractor reversed into a ladder that he was working on. The insurers declined the claim on the basis that the tractor was working in a “private place”, and therefore cover would not be provided under a motor policy.
After appeal, the Slovenian Supreme Court referred the case to the European Court of Justice, and their decision was that the claim should be covered under the motor policy. A number of member states, including Ireland, expressed concern at this decision, but this was rejected by the European Court.
As most readers will be aware, under the 1961 Road Traffic Act, Irish law obliges drivers to have insurance to cover accidents occurring in a public place. Mechanical propelled vehicles operating in a private place hitherto would not require compulsory road traffic act cover. There may have been some ambiguity around what constituted private or public, but this ruling effectively establishes that the location of an accident is irrelevant. If a driver operates a mechanical propelled vehicle, it must be covered by a minimum of third party insurance.
In the Irish Haulage industry, there would be several examples of vehicles being used where the driver believes that they do not require compulsory RTA cover. These examples would include shunter vehicles, laid up vehicle that might be moved occasionally, and especially forklifts which might be used in warehouses or workshops, etc. Although these may be operating in what was previously regarded as a private place, this ruling would now appear to confirm that motor insurance cover is required.
Wright Insurance says it is obvious that there is a need on Government to accept this decision, or challenge it again. If not challenged, it would possibly be necessary to amend the road traffic act. Also, clarity would be required around certain vehicle types. For example motorised pallet trucks.
It is common practice for drivers to use forklifts or motorised pallet trucks whilst unloading at their customers premises. Therefore, it would be necessary to clarify the insurance requirements of this type of operation.
Wright Insurance Brokers will be monitoring this situation and will be in contact with all of its client, including the numerous clients involved in the haulage industry.
The Irish Brokers Association has asked all brokers to advise their client of this development