Aircoach bus driver sacked for using iPad while driving at 60mph on Dublin motorway
An Aircoach bus driver has been sacked after using his iPad while driving his bus at 60mph on the M50 two years ago.
On July 22 2013, coach CCTV cameras recorded driver Sean Purcell take his two hands off the steering wheel to take out his iPad.
The Republic's Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) hearing into Mr Purcell’s claim for unfair dismissal records that Mr Purcell was driving the empty bus “at 100 km/h".
The CCTV footage then recorded Mr Purcell have an iPad in one hand with the other hand on the steering wheel.
The footage also showed Mr Purcell on two or three occasions not having either hand on the steering wheel.
The CCTV footage opened to the EAT showed Mr Purcell removing both hands from the steering wheel and steering the coach with his elbow while he activated the iPad and then proceeded to drive the coach with only one hand on the steering wheel while he held the iPad to his ear with the other hand.
Aircoach was alerted to Mr Purcell’s use of the iPad while driving by a motorist who witnessed what was occurring and contacted the firm to complain.
A driver-trainer with Aircoach, AMcM told the tribunal that Mr Purcell was was not driving safely and that he was “horrified” after viewing the CCTV footage and and immediately informed the firm’s Operations Manager.
Aircoach’s Operations Manager, identified only as AK viewed the CCTV footage of the incident “and became seriously concerned from a health and safety point of view”.
She said that Mr Purcell “had put both himself and others in danger”. AK suspended Mr Purcell with full pay on July 24th 2013 pending an enquiry into the matter.
AK said that Mr Purcell “was a reliable employee and had a good working relationship with staff members”.
At a investigation meeting on July 25th, Mr Purcell said he was “listening to an audio radio on the iPad and that the coach radio was not working and there was wind coming from the door of the coach”.
Mr Purcell “thought the company should have no issue as it was not a mobile phone he was using”.
At a follow up meeting on July 29th, Mr Purcell “saw no serious breach of the safety policy in place and it was his view that it was acceptable to use an iPad when driving. He said he was fully in control of the vehicle he was driving. He showed no remorse”.
Mr Purcell appealed internally the decision to dismiss and the firm’s MD, Allen Parker told the tribunal that “it was apparent from the CCTV footage that Mr Purcell was significantly distracted and not fully concentrating on the road in front of him which constituted a serious breach of health and safety procedures and endangered other road users”.
He said that been a breakdown of trust and confidence in Mr Purcell and upheld the decision to dismiss him.
In evidence, Mr Purcell said that he commenced working with Aircoach in September 2008, had a good work ethic and an exemplary work record.
He said that he took pride in his work and always considered himself a professional and good driver.
On the day in question, Mr Purcell said that he had worked a 12 hour roster. It was just before 7.30 in the evening and the M50 was not busy at the time.
The doors were not closing properly which created a noise and the radio was not working either.
He said that he had a certain level of tiredness and was focusing on getting back to the depot.
The report states that Mr Purcell assessed the situation around him and the road conditions. He picked up an iPad and activated it.
Mr Purcell told the EAT hearing, held over three days in Dublin, that he wanted something to keep him alert and focused.
He said that it was a once off situation and that he was consciously checking his mirrors and his vision was not impaired at any stage.
Mr Purcell said that he was completely in control of the vehicle on the day. While he acknowledged that he was not driving safely with an iPad up to his ear, he felt in control of the vehicle. He never felt compromised.
Mr Purcell said that he did his job to the best of his ability and tried to keep trouble free.
The EAT recorded that since the termination of his employment Mr Purcell "endeavoured to secure work within the industry. He also applied for positions in the retail sector. He has not secured alternative work”.
In its ruling, the EAT dismissed Mr Purcell’s claim for unfair dismissal stating that Aircoach acted reasonably at all times and that tantial grounds existed justifying dismissal.
The EAT recorded that Mr Purcell’s actions "constituted a serious safety risk and were in clear breach of company policies".
MD of Aircoach, Allen Parker said: "We welcome the decision by the employment appeals tribunal. Safety is our number one priority and our rules are there for the safety of our passengers, our drivers and for other road users.
He said: "We have a very strict policy which absolutely forbids the use of any electronic mobile device while driving which was breached in this case and we are glad that the Tribunal upheld our initial decision.”