Regulator bans haulage operators whose driver killed cyclist

Lorries are disproportionately involved in cyclist fatalities
Two transport managers responsible for hiring a driver who killed a cyclist by careless driving have had their licences to operate revoked.

In April this year, Barry Meyer admitted causing Alan Neve’s death by careless driving when he ran him over with a tipper truck outside Holborn underground station on 15 July 2013. Meyer only admitted the charge after the judge presiding over the case said his bad character as a driver would be revealed to the court.

Soon after Meyer was sentenced, the Traffic Commissioner (TC) for London and the South East, Nick Denton, began an investigation into the haulage company that had employed him.

Licences revoked

When the transport managers for the company that hired Meyer - Alan John Drummond and Colin Frank Drummond - both failed to attend either a pre-inquiry hearing (8th June 2015) or a subsequent public inquiry (24th June), Denton revoked both of their licences to operate.

Denton found that both transport managers had failed to carry out due diligence checks on Meyer to establish that he was legally permitted to drive their vehicles.

In a written statement released after the inquiry, Denton said “I find that the operator wrongly took on trust Barry Meyer’s assurance that he possessed the correct driving entitlement and never bothered to check whether this was really so, even after Mr Meyer had “forgotten” to bring in his licence for checking, something which should have set off alarm bells.&rdquo

Alan Drummond was disqualified from holding or obtaining any type of operator’s licence in any traffic area, or being the director of any company holding or obtaining such a licence.

Colin Drummond was disqualified from acting as a transport manager on any operator’s licence in any member state of the European Union. Before he can act as a transport manager again he must appear before the Traffic Commissioner at a hearing in order to re-establish his repute.

Fatal A30 crash

CTC believes the Traffic Commissioner (TC) for the West of England, Sarah Bell, should now investigate another transport manager’s operations after a fatal incident involving one of their drivers on the A30 in Cornwall in July 2013. The incident, which occurred just a fortnight before Alan Neve was killed, resulted in the deaths of cyclists Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace. There is more background on both cases here.

In short, the driver involved, Robert Palmer, pleaded guilty to causing the men’s deaths by dangerous driving. He had driven while severely fatigued, having worked on his truck during the day and having completed a night time delivery for Frys Logistics straight after – with just a few hours rest in between shifts. He was also found to have used his mobile phone repeatedly to send text messages whilst carrying out deliveries for the company, although the texting was not directly linked to the fatal crash.

Transport manager prosecuted

It would appear that the transport manager working for Frys Logistics, Mark Fry, has not yet been called in by the TC to face questioning related to the collision [N.B. See update below]. However, he was recently prosecuted on behalf of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Authority (DVSA) for tachograph offences, including failing to record walk-round checks of a vehicle he was due to drive and working illegally long hours.

[**UPDATE**: Frys Logistics subsequently had its operators licence revoked on 16 November 2015, effective from 23 December. The company was liquidated on 2nd March 2016]

During Mark Fry's trial, his defence lawyer said that the fatal A30 crash involved driver error by Palmer and that, following a public inquiry by the TC, no action had been taken against Fry regarding his operator licence. However CTC has not been able to find a public record of the inquiry mentioned by the defence. As a result, CTC has contacted the TC's office to confirm whether an inquiry was held, and if so, what conclusions were reached and why. We are concerned that Mark Fry seems not to have been held to account by either the TC or the criminal courts for any possible management or operational failures relating to Wallace and McMenigall's deaths.

If no TC's inquiry has yet been conducted, CTC will urge the TC to consider an investigation of Frys Logistics in relation to their deaths, and specifically whether Mark Fry was carrying out due diligence in determining whether Palmer was fit to drive, or whether he was in any way complicit in the illegally long hours that Palmer was working. [**N.B. See update above **]

Frys Logistics was originally granted an operator's licence in 2011 with Mark Fry as its transport manager, after the Traffic Commissioner had refused an application naming its transport manager as Arthur Charles Fry. His previous firm, A C Fry Transport, had lost its operator's licence in 2010, causing it to be shut down. While granting an operators licence for Frys Logistics, the TC had ruled that Arthur C Fry should not play any part in the management of the company.

No formalised notification process

We are concerned though that the lack of a regulatory safeguard, highlighted by the fact that these investigations do not happen without prompting, either by TfL (in the Neve case) or by charities such as CTC and the London Cycling Campaign. It should be the responsibility of the police and/or DVSA to notify the TCs of operators involved in serious offences or fatal collisions, given that CTC and local campaign groups have neither the capacity to do so systematically, nor the ability to access timely information available to the authorities. A formal reporting mechanism involving the police and DVSA is necessary to ensure the TCs are made aware of incidents which may indicate safety failings by operators, so that these can be investigated at the earliest possible opportunity.

However, there is also a wider problem. A recent crackdown by the TfL-funded Commercial Vehicle Unit, run by City of London Police, found that nearly three in four lorries stopped were non-compliant in some way (though TfL points out that the overall level of non-compliant lorries on London's roads is probably not as bad as this, as they were targeting suspect vehicles rather than making random checks). Offences detected included lack of insurance, driving without the appropriate licence, driving with unsafe tyres, driving with unsafe loads and not accurately recording driver hours.

The TCs don’t even have the capacity to investigate all the cases they receive at present, let alone any increase in cases that would result from a more systematic reporting mechanism. Given the vitally important role which the TCs play in ensuring safe lorry operations, it is crucial that they are adequately resourced to do their job.