A fuel tanker driver from XPO Bulk UK has been awarded £23,000 for loss of earnings and been re-instated following an employment tribunal in East London.

Mr Nolan had been employed by XPO Bulk UK since August 2015 as a delivery driver, taking fuel to petrol stations and filling them up.

On the night of 8th December 2015, Nolan arrived at a Tesco filling station near Chichester and began the usual pre-filling checks. It was a ‘dark and windy’ night according to Nolan when he started filling the the two fuel pots. When he started filling the second pot, an alarm sounded. Nolan investigated the alarm but found no warning lights on the display. A small blockage was found on one of the hoses, which was then fixed so that fuel could continue to be delivered.

However, the alarm sounded again, but still did not display any warning lights. Nolan then shut off the alarm and went to look at the paperwork. This is the stage in which Nolan realised he had not read the ullage correctly (amount of remaining space in the fuel tank) and pressed the emergency stop. At the same time, staff from Tesco informed Nolan that fuel had spilled onto the forecourt. Nolan asked the Tesco employee to call 999 and get the fire brigade, which is standard procedure for this type of incident.

According to Nolan, the fire brigade “did not do anything other than inspect the scene, spread a little more sand and ensured that the clean-up had been satisfactorily dealt with”. Nolan also reported this to XPO Bulk UK.

XPO Bulk UK invited Mr Nolan to a disciplinary hearing on 17th December (9 days after the incident occurred and dismissed him with notice on the grounds that Nolan had brought the company into disrepute.

Nolan tried to appeal the decision of XPO Bulk UK but was unsuccessful and tribunal proceeding began in 2018.

The tribunal was shown documents that XPO Bulk UK had been warned by Tesco staff that there was a sensor fault in the filling tank, however Nolan had not been informed about this

The tribunal found that Nolan’s conduct was “culpable and blameworthy” however it ruled that a reasonable employer would not have dismissed Mr Nolan.

The employment tribunal found that Nola was unfairly dismissed and ordered him to be re-instated to his role, as Nolan had requested and awarded him £22,805.18 for loss of earning, pension and expenses while looking for a new job.

Director at HR Heroes, Caroline Wood, said that tribunal judges ordering dismissed employees to be re-instated was ‘incredibly rare, but not impossible”.

“The tribunal cannot force the employer to re-instate an employee but the penalties for failing to adhere to it are normally in the way of fines and financial penalties”.